Older people facing isolation in absence of rural transport system – Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, speaking after having secured an adjournment of the Dáil to discuss Positive Ageing Week, called on the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to initiate an effective public transport system for rural communities, especially so that older people can fully avail of free travel passes to help access essential services and to make possible more active and healthier lifestyles.
Speaking this evening the Cavan/Monaghan TD said, "The first and most critical issue cited by Age Action and Age Concern is the pressing need for rural public transport. They have urged all political parties to unite and respond by expanding existing rural public transport services and taking a more integrated approach to rural and cross border transport issues.
"Cross border forums attended by older people were organised in Monaghan, Newry, Omagh, Letterkenny and Carrick-On-Shannon. At those forums the Project found that poor transport and road infrastructure in the region exacerbated rural isolation and rural depopulation.
"Everyone has rightly welcomed the recent introduction of the all-Ireland free travel pass. That is something we in Sinn Féin, in common with older people's groups, have advocated for many years. However, many older people in rural areas still have no way of accessing free travel in practice because the public transport infrastructure is simply not there.
"Over-centralisation of transport infrastructure in Dublin and Belfast has had a negative impact on rural peripheral, isolated border regions. People in rural border areas suffer a double disadvantage as both their rural location and the division of services by the border isolates them further. Many older people are faced with declining local public and private services and weakened community and family supports.
"For these reasons I urge the Minister for Transport to initiate an effective public transport system for rural communities, especially so that older people can fully avail of free travel passes to help access essential services and to make possible more active and healthier lifestyles. The Minister also needs to co-ordinate this enhanced rural public transport system with his counterpart in the Executive in the Six Counties.
"In conclusion I want to echo the motto of Positive Ageing Cross Border. It states 'Age has no borders' which is surely a reminder that, whatever our age, or wherever we live, we are all ageing and must all be concerned with these issues regardless of both man-made frontiers and generation gaps." ENDS