BY MARIE NOLAN
AN initial €6 charge to certain users of the Free Travel scheme could soon become €15, €20, €60 –and more, according to Southern Star readers.
Readers took to social media last week in huge numbers, after Deputy Jim Daly suggested an annual administration fee for users of the Free Travel scheme.
Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony of FF soon followed the idea with a statement saying: ‘The mask has finally slipped, when it comes to Fine Gael and how the country treats the elderly and people with disabilities.’
However, some online commentators were quick to side with the FG deputy, saying he had a valid point, because they were ‘sick of paying for everything.’
Conor Cronin said it seemed a reasonable proposal: ‘Everyone seems to want stuff for free but somebody has to pay. I don’t think people paying €6 a year for free travel is that much. Bus Eireann is broke. The other options are cut the pay of drivers and/or cut services or raise taxes and again make working people pay for everything.’
Richard Harrington agreed: ‘€6 a year to me seems very reasonable. No one thinks of the fools like us that have to pay for everything, because we want to go to work. Getting sick of paying for everyone else too.’
He said he was on a bus recently where of the 12 or so people, it appeared he was the only paying passenger. ‘And only two or three were pension age. Bus Eireann are losing money hand over fist and something has to be done to help sort it. The other option is cut down on the number of buses in rural areas, which is probably what will happen, creating even more outcasts in rural Ireland.’
Conor Cronin agreed, saying he ‘recently had to get the train to Dublin. It was packed and half the crowd on it were travelling for free. It’s the same people like us who have to pay for everything all the time through high taxes and then high fares on public transport.’ Justin Cremin had another suggestion: ‘I think if a contribution was made of 10% per fare from the holder of a free travel pass, after all a Bantry to Cork return adult fare is €28.98 today online. It’s bad that 90% of people who use Expressway don’t pay and can take a carer, so two seats are taken up by one cardholder so it’s important to get money turning over, even it’s a small contribution.’
However, there was strong scepticism that the €6 charge was only a starting point, with Pa Curran fearful it would increase over time.
‘Old people have paid enough in their working lives. They deserve to be treated properly. €6 a year would turn into €60 very quickly with those snakes in charge.’
Eoin Delaney added: ‘Margaret is no fool! An introduction of €6 per year would soon rise to €15 or €20!’
And Cllr Danny Collins said it would be a case of ‘€6 this year and €16 the next. Most of our senior citizens have paid taxes all their lives and have been cheated by past governments the last number of years.
‘If we can’t give a bit of respect to our senior citizens god help us and those of them that do travel on the bus normally go to a town eg Bantry, Skibbereen, Schull, Dunmannway, to do their shopping, and go to the nearest place to have food, drink etc. And that’s where taxes come back and keep people employed and keep rural Ireland alive.’
Of Jim Daly, ‘Spud Murphy’ asked: ‘Does he ever think he will get old, or does he realise how valuable it is especially to rural areas?’
However, in a letter in The Southern Star last week, Deputy Daly stressed that he had always been upfront and honest with people ‘letting them know where I stand on issues that affect them’.
He said if there were any further reductions to public services for rural Ireland it will be of ‘no use at all.’
The online conversation also touched on what people said was the high cost of travelling by bus, with many saying they had no choice but to drive, as it was cheaper.