BAFTA award winning actor Brían F O’Byrne says he thinks it would be “almost impossible” for returning citizens to move back to Ireland after living abroad.
The Love/Hate star, who returned to Ireland himself two years ago and now lives with his family in Sligo, said he could not imagine how returning emigrants could set themselves back up again without savings.
Speaking to Liveline, O’Byrne said that the year he moved back to Ireland was “one of the most frustrating years” of his life due to bureaucracy issues surrounding insurance, driving and banking.
Despite admitting he was “deliriously happy” since his return, he criticised in particular the lack of a direct swap facility between US and Irish-based driving licences that has “huge ramifications” on insurance costs.
“Those people coming back to the country would have to start again from ground zero. You become a learner in the eyes of an insurance company,” he said.
The actor said that rural life in Ireland meant that he and his wife needed to drive for work, but were unable to do so legally with a US-issued driving licence.
“You’re left marooned unless you choose to break the law,” he said.
“For the first year when you return on an American driver’s licence you drive like anyone else on the road – exactly like anyone else in the country. Then if we intend to stay longer than one year you must apply for a driver’s licence.
“Obviously when you’re a learner driver you have to have a full timer with a full driver’s licence in the car with you – that full driver’s licence can be a US drivers licence holder which you have one in your pocket.”
The actor also believes that we should not allow US drivers to rent vehicles in Ireland if we do not recognise their licence in full.
Currently, US citizens are permitted to drive in Ireland up to 12 months as a tourist but then must go through the full driver licensing procedure as if they were a new driver.
Fellow EU citizens, along with those from “recognised” states such as Australia and New Zealand, can drive as normal on their own licence with the option to exchange for the equivalent Irish permit.
Last year, Minister for Transport Shane Ross relaxed the procedure for unrecognised licence holders, cutting the requirement for essential driver training lessons from the usual 12 down to six as part of a reduced programme for “full foreign licence holders.”
O’Byrne said the inability to transfer the full licence is “makes no sense” and he does not believe the issue is that US drivers would find driving on the opposite side of the road too difficult of a transition.
According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), right-driving countries that can avail of a simple license conversion include South Korea, Switzerland and some Canadian territories due to their agreements as “recognised states.”
After the rocky transition period, O’Byrne told Joe Duffy that the decision to return to Ireland “could not be a better move” for him, his American wife and their two daughters, adding that “the community you get in Ireland is astonishing.”
Originally from Cavan, the actor recently starred in the Limerick-produced series Nightflyers, which was cancelled after its first season. He has previously held roles in Million Dollar Baby and the critically-acclaimed Little Boy Blue for which he won a BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actor in 2018.
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