Cllr James Lawless has backed his party’s stance that Fianna Fáil will strongly resist any attempts to restrict or limit the Free Travel Scheme for older people according to the party’s Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley.
General election candidate Cllr Lawless said “Many older citizens will be extremely annoyed and worried about speculation about 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 been hit hard by this government and Fianna Fáil is committed to resisting any attempts at reducing access to or restricting the use of 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. Our older citizens have been hit by cuts to the fuel allowance, telephone allowance, expanded carbon taxes, prescription charges and a huge levy on their private retirement savings.
“Up to 1.2m people can currently access the Free Travel Scheme. It has been an enormous success since it was introduced by previous progressive Fianna Fáil government. Many older people regularly use public transport now 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 who rely on tourism and local retail.”