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All we wanted for Christmas was ... a bus to get to Bantry!

January 2nd, 2023 3:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

The bus, used by students at the NLN, Sudbury and CoAction’s RT programme, was funded by donations from the St Vincent de Paul (SVP) and Beara West FRC. From left: Mairead Murphy, SVP with Mars Harrington, Sabrina Hunt, Jessie Waschkowitz, Lorcan Hartnett, Olga McEvoy, Conor O’Sullivan, Donal Kelly, (SVP) and driver Johnny O’Shea. (Photo: Anne Marie Cronin)

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Young adults in Beara have no way of accessing courses or vital services

YOUNG adults on the Beara Peninsula are unsure how, or even if, they will be able to continue their further education in Bantry this year as they don’t have a bus to take them there.

They attend services at the National Learning Network, Rehab Care and CoAction, and other venues.

With current bus schedules unsuitable for them, St Vincent de Paul and Beara West Family Resource Centre stepped in with a donation of €7,600 and grant of €3,600 respectively that secured their bus service until Christmas.

Service users themselves also contributed, including some paying from their weekly disability allowance.

Following advocacy by Beara West FRC, the HSE has committed funds to cover the cost of the bus for January.

But after that, it seems, the young adults will be left high and dry.

A statement from the National Transport Authority (NTA) says the aim is for a new route ‘to commence during Q1 2023.’ Q1 – the first three months of the year – could be anything from January to March.

But with the community under the impression the NTA was to confirm the service before Christmas, uncertainty and anxiety remains.

Katie Bramwell, whose daughter Jessica needs the bus to attend further education, said there was great relief to get interim transport secured for January.

‘However what we desperately need is a firm commitment from the NTA for a permanent service going forward.

‘Our young adults are four months into their training and education, which can only be accessed in Bantry. They need continuity.

‘It has been a particularly stressful time for families not knowing what will happen in the new year, and the NTA has now reneged on their commitment to start a service in the fourth quarter of 2022,’ she said.

A spokesperson for Beara FRC said: ‘We are a hub of support to the community, if there’s a need in the community we’ll meet it, but we need NTA funding.’

The spokesperson added that a service was needed, not just for the young adults, but also for the wider community. They said a regular, time-appropriate service to Bantry from Castletownbere could support hundreds of others who need to make hospital, consultants and optician appointments in Bantry etc.

Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns has repeatedly flagged the issue.

‘It is unacceptable that when I raised this matter with the Minister for Disabilities a few weeks ago she stated she had to go to Google to actually see what is happening in Beara, and that the HSE was not aware of any difficulties with this existing transport arrangement,’ said Deputy Cairns.

She also added that the Minister said that Local Link Cork had said it was not aware of any issues with the service.

‘It is outrageous that the Minister has to take to Google to find out what is happening and it is worse that young people and their families have to campaign for transport to access vital educational and training services,’ said the Social Democrat TD.

Deputy Cairns highlighted the excellent educational supports available in Bantry, but said: ‘It’s no good having them if people can’t get to them. Government need to guarantee that this service will be in place for the new school term in January.

‘We need a resolution to this urgently.’

The NTA said the procurement process for a new route (Route 232 – Dursey Sound to Kilcrohane, via Castletownbere and Bantry) is expected to commence in the coming weeks.

‘Details of the implementation date will not be available until the procurement process is complete.

‘The NTA in conjunction with the TFI Local Link office in Cork will continue to work together to ensure this service is in operation as soon as possible.’

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