Road Safety Authority under fire refusing request to appear at Public Accounts Committee and claiming on air it contacted groups when they say it didn’t

— Making submissions on road safety projects would be politicising RSA, spokesperson says on Today FM.

Officials at the Road Safety Authority are under renewed focus on claims made on air that they contacted campaigners when the groups say that didn’t happen, refusing to appear in front of the Public Accounts Committee and the launch of another soft-focus PR campaign as road deaths mount.

Sam Waide, the CEO of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), replied to a letter from the Public Accounts Committee refusing a request to come in front of the committee  partly due to “operational priorities”.

Brian Stanley, a Sinn Féin TD and committee chairman, yesterday said: “Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh has flagged this item. The letter is basically saying they [the RSA] will not come. I think we need to remind the RSA that it is audited by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. It is accountable to this committee. The last time it was here was 2018. That is pre-Covid. That is six years ago. It needs to be brought in here and it will come in here.” 

He added: “I will ask the secretariat to write back and explain that and outline the line of accountability to the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and to this committee. Yes, it will be coming before us. The Accounting Officer, I presume, is Mr Sam Waide. He needs to be present along with his senior management team. It has been given extra funding and its role has been expanded in recent years. It oversees driver licences and a whole range of activities. It does some good work, but in terms of its accounts and governance, we want to see it before the committee.”

Catherine Murphy, SocDems TD, said: “Absolutely agreeable. I thought the tone of the letter was quite extraordinary.”

On Monday, Sarah O’Connor, director of partnerships and external affairs at the RSA, said that the over 34 groups which said the authority was “no longer fit for purpose” were actually “expressing no confidence of where we’re at as a country”.

“When I dug into [it] and spoke to members of those organisations and liaised with them to find out what is concerning them and what they are concerned with are the bigger issues what we’re all concerned about in the road safety landscape,” O’Connor said on The Last Word radio show on Today FM on Monday.

I Bike Dublin, a campaign group, said on Twitter yesterday: “On Monday, an RSA spokesperson told [presenter] Matt Cooper on Today FM that they had spoken to and liaised with members of the 34 community groups that signed the statement of no confidence in the RSA one month ago. We’ve asked each of the groups involved and no one has heard from RSA.”

Galway Cycling Campaign said: “We were one of the signatories and did not hear from the RSA about it. There’s a sense of protecting the institution here instead of just putting their hands up and saying we need a new model for Road Danger Reduction.”

Limerick Pedestrian Network said: “We haven’t heard a peep either.”

Similar tweets were put out by other signee groups including the Dublin Commuters (formally the Dublin Commuter Coalition), Better Ennis, A Playful City, Support Living Streets Dun Laoghaire, DLR Cycling, Naas Cycling Campaign, The Wheels of Athenry, D12 Bike Bus Network, Waterford Bicycle User Group, and MÓRAction.

When challenged on air by presenter Matt Cooper that the criticism from the groups was very specific including the RSA’s focus on children and others who have the “least capacity to make a difference” to road safety. He termed it as focusing on the “victim rather than the offenders”.

O’Connor said that she rejects that because “a huge amount of the cost” they spend on campaigns and advertising is targeted at young males between 18 and 30. She claimed that providing high-vis to children was a “tiny” part of their work and focusing on it is “probably fixating on the wrong idea”.

She said: “I think if you look at the tagline for every single ad campaign we have it will be slow down, belt up every seat every time — none of those are about the person not involved, those are about fixating on motorist behaviour”.

Cooper also asked why the RSA was silent on opposition to proposed road safety interventions, O’Connor said it would be “politicising” the authority.

The following day, asked the RSA why it would be unable to make a submission using an evidence-based approach and how would this be politicising the RSA. The RSA has yet to respond to the questions.

The question on why the RSA was not making submissions came last week when the authority appeared at the joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications.

After that appearance, this website last Thursday asked the RSA what submissions  it has made in recent years.

The same request relayed a question asked publicly by DLR Cycling, a branch of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, which asked if the RSA could be involved in “educating councillors instead of school children on why left turning lanes are dangerous”. asked can the RSA see a future role for itself in educating councillors of the importance of road design elements or the removal of dangerous designs such as slip turns. No response has been forthcoming in over a week.

After the committee appearance by the RSA, Ciaran Cannon TD said: “This is really disturbing, but not surprising. The RSA is charged with making our roads safer, but doesn’t see the need for it to advocate for the protection of the most vulnerable people on our roads. It should be the most vocal advocate of all.”

Waterdord-based Cllr Cristíona Kiely said: “When I think how much easier it would’ve been to get #RoadSafety measures over the line if there were submissions from an entity perceived as an authority on #RoadSafety (like maybe RSA for example), I wonder how much further ahead we’d be and how many fewer tragedies.”

She said: “The impact of submissions from the RSA on road safety public consultations would be a game changer. Currently, the fight for road safety is too often left to lone voice Cllrs. Very often, other cllrs are captured by votes instead of prioritising road safety. A TD emailed me about a road safety measure he didn’t like — describing it as ‘ultra green’.”

I Bike Dublin said: “Today’s tragic events are a sobering reminder of the need for safe infrastructure. As the news broke, the RSA were in front of an Oireachtas Committee. They were asked had they ever made submissions in support of safe infrastructure. The RSA’s response, or lack of response, to this question was genuinely shocking. It wasn’t just that they didn’t know the answer, they didn’t know what to make of the question. It was like it had never dawned on them that this was something they could or should be doing. Their silence in response speaks volumes.”

South Dublin Cycling, a branch of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “You don’t need to be an engineer to participate in public consultations. We strongly encourage YOU to participate in all consultations of interest to you so that you can ensure you and your family, friends and colleagues can make safe journeys on infrastructure fit for purpose.”

The Galway Cycling Campaign said: “The RSA is broken. As volunteers we spend many person-hours making suggestions and submissions on developments big and small because these have an impact on our safety and thus on our ability to use our roads. Submissions are not even on RSA’s radar. Road tragedy is avoidable.”


  1. Re the Moycullen bypass, I sent an email to Galway county council engineers pointing out that parts of the footpaths were wheelchair vicious, and in fairness to them they inspected the bypass, and fully agreed, and the contractor is at this moment rectifying the issue, where was the RSA in relation to this project???.
    Tony Carey.


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