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FactCheck: Did Jim Daly really propose getting rid of the free travel pass?

We examine his comments and test the claim of his fellow Cork South-West TD, Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.

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EARLIER THIS MONTH, Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony accused her fellow Cork South-West deputy, Fine Gael’s Jim Daly, of proposing to ‘scrap’ the free travel pass.

Is that true?

(Send your FactCheck requests to factcheck@thejournal.ie, tweet @TJ_FactCheck, or send us a DM).

Claim: Jim Daly proposed getting rid of the free travel pass

52 Tillage Farmers_90500245 Fianna Fáil Cork South-West TD Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

What was said:

You can listen to excerpts, and watch a breakdown of the basic facts, in a video below, but here are key statements by Jim Daly, from two radio interviews earlier this month.

On RTE Radio One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke, on 20 January, Daly had this exchange with the host, during a conversation about the purported €6 million gap in Bus Eireann funding:

JD: One issue – and I would differ from my party on this, somewhat, I think Leo Varadkar has already said he won’t entertain it, any kind of contribution from those on travel passes.
But there could be anything up to a million people in Ireland with a free travel pass. If they were contributing €6 per annum per pass, that’s your €6 million wiped out.
Now that’s making very simple sums of it, but I do think that there’s a lot of people…
SOR: Are you proposing something here now?
JD: Yeah I am, I am yeah.

You can listen to the full exchange here (starts 1 hr 39 mins).

Later that day, a press release on behalf of Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony stated:

Cork South West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has said that today’s comments by Deputy Jim Daly where he says that he favours the scrapping of the Free Travel Pass demonstrate the true nature of his Fine Gael party.

Three days later (last Monday), Daly went on C103′s Cork Today programme, and said the following:

There has to be an introduction of some sort of an administrative fee to the tune of €6 per year.

He added:

…Anybody above €50,000 a year pension, I think should be making a contribution to the bus pass.

And he also indicated that to avoid “cutting services to rural Ireland” in the form of the Expressway service, he would favour “considering some sort of an administration fee in the region of €6 per annum for maybe three quarters of the free passes”.

You can listen to the interview in full here.

The Facts

Irish general election Fine Gael Cork South-West TD Jim Daly Source: PA Archive/PA Images

In response to FactCheck, Fianna Fáil cited Jim Daly’s comments on Today With Seán O’Rourke, and argued:

By its very nature, applying any charge to a ‘Free’ scheme means it no longer remains free, and therefore the Free Travel Pass is scrapped and replaced by a contributory scheme.

In evaluating this, we need to be very careful in examining what exactly Jim Daly said in those two interviews.

  • If the (estimated) one million recipients of the free travel pass each paid €6 million per year, this could fill the gap in Bus Eireann funding. (Said on Today With Seán O’Rourke).

When specifically asked by O’Rourke if he was making a proposal, Daly replied that he was. This is very strong evidence in favour of Margaret Murphy O’Mahony’s claim that Jim Daly favours scrapping the free travel pass.

  • There must be an administrative fee of around €6 per year per pass-holder. (Said on C103).

This is another strong articulation by Jim Daly of support for a fee, but does not stipulate whether all recipients would be subject to the fee, under his proposal.

  • If faced with the choice of losing the Expressway service to rural Ireland, or bringing in a €6 per year per person charge for around three quarters of the estimated 1.3 million recipients, Daly would choose the latter. (Said on C103).

This is significantly less definitive than his previous remarks.

Firstly, it makes the introduction of the charge contingent on a scenario where its purpose was to avoid losing Expressway.

Secondly, it does not apply to all recipients – only the number required to yield the €6 million necessary to fill the gap in Bus Eireann funding.

Confusingly, Daly prefaced these remarks by saying he was restating what he had said on Today With Seán O’Rourke, three days earlier.

But that is not what he said on Today With Seán O’Rourke, when he was in fact more definitive in his proposal to introduce a charge for all free travel pass holders.

Conclusion

Jim Daly did state, on two different occasions, that he supported introducing a charge for recipients of the free travel pass, and that he was making a proposal (not merely stating that a certain approach was possible).

But in the second interview, he also moderated his remarks – making the charge contingent, and limiting it to, in his words, three quarters of recipients, not all of them.

However, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony’s press release, which contains the claim we are examining, was written and published before the second interview.

We must therefore evaluate it based on the remarks Jim Daly had made at that time.

For this reason, we rate her claim TRUE.

But it is crucial to note that since her claim was made, Jim Daly has moderated his proposal somewhat, and in a way that is salient to the question of whether he “favours scrapping” the free travel pass.

While introducing a charge for most recipients would certainly radically change the nature of the scheme, it would also retain the absence of a charge for some recipients.

Add to this the contingent nature of Daly’s proposal in the second interview (if a charge were necessary to avoid the shutting down of Expressway), and it becomes difficult to claim that he supports, in an unambiguous way, getting rid of the free travel pass.

This is the first time we’ve fact-checked a claim by Margaret Murphy O’Mahony. In future, you’ll be able to find her FactCheck File here.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here.

For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here.

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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