General Election candidate for Kildare North Cllr James Lawless has said Fianna Fáil will strongly resist any attempt made to limit the Free Travel Scheme for older people. Cllr Lawless made the comment after Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley made it clear that the party would not tolerate any restrictions being imposed on the scheme.
Cllr Lawless commented, “Many older citizens will be extremely annoyed and worried over the recent speculation about the future of the Free Travel Scheme. They will also be very slow to accept any government assurances ahead of the October budget given the scale of broken promises from Fine Gael and Labour.
“Older citizens have already been hit hard by the Government due to reductions in vital supports such as the fuel allowance, electricity and gas allowance, the abolishment of the telephone allowance and the introduction of the local property tax. The Government now wants to target older people yet again as is evident by the recent kite flying over the proposal to restrict the Free Travel Scheme.
“An inter-departmental review group has been pouring over the details of the travel scheme for months, looking at eligibility, criteria and funding. Fianna Fáil pointed out at the time that establishing this review would cause concern and anxiety particularly among older people who have taken a serious hit in the last few years.
“Up to 1.2m people can currently access the Free Travel Scheme. It has been an enormous success since it was introduced by a previous progressive Fianna Fáil government. Many older people regularly use public transport for holidays within the country or to travel and see relatives and friends.
“I don’t want to see any measures coming forward from government that would limit their use of the scheme or restrict the times it is available to them. Fianna Fáil will strongly resist any such moves and will mobilise an active campaign against it. This government needs to start treating our older citizens with some decency and respect. They deserve nothing less.
Cllr Lawless concluded, “The free travel scheme also generates economic development as older people take day trips or short breaks with their free travel. Curtailing this scheme will have negative knock on affects for the local economies of towns that rely on tourism and local retail.”