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"Hands off": Older voters send warning to Government on Free Travel Pass

The scheme is currently being reviewed, but Age Action is warning that any negative changes will be vehemently opposed by older people.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 12.36pm

AGE ACTION, THE lobby group representing older people, launched its pre-Budget campaign today —  sending a warning to the Government not to meddle with the Free Travel Pass.

Currently, anyone over 65 is entitled to a pass entitling them to free public transport.

However, a review of the scheme is under way. Its findings will be be presented to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

Age Action is warning that any negative changes to the scheme will be vehemently opposed by older people.

“Any attempt to meddle with, or water-down, the scheme would create a whole new set of problems for Ireland’s ageing population,” Age Action’s Eamon Timmins said.

The group says efforts to limit times the pass can be used, introduce an annual charge or restrict the forms of transport it can be used on will be strongly opposed.

It’s also published the results of a survey of members, which it says highlights how important travel passes are for carrying out everyday tasks.

57 per cent of respondents said that without their travel passes they wouldn’t be able to attend medical or health appointments, while 61 per cent said loss of the pass would prevent them from being able to visit family and friends.

“We carried out this research so that our policy makers can understand the importance of the travel pass and how older people use it,” Timmins said.

We don’t want a repeat of last year’s Budget when the Government abolished the telephone allowance for older people without realising that many older people used their phone for the pendant alarm service.

The group is urging people to contact their local TD, senator or councillor on the issue, in order to put pressure on the Government ahead of October’s Budget.

Speaking at Government Buildings this afternoon, Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly said he didn’t believe there would be any changes to the scheme.

“As Minister for Public Transport it’s not something that’s even come on my radar to be honest. I don’t imagine there’s going to be changes.”

The free travel scheme was introduced by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, during his term as Finance Minister, in 1967.

First posted at 11.31am.

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