Proposed changes to Rural Transport Scheme ‘an further Attack on Rural Ireland’
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has expressed opposition to any centralisation of the Rural Transport Scheme and stated that it will undermine the flexibility which made the scheme successful.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh was responding to a draft report in to rural transport from the Department of Transport which was leaked today in the Irish Examiner.
“We would be very concerned at the proposals which are outlined in the draft report, and think it show a very substantial misunderstanding of the value and role of rural transport schemes.
“From my own experience working with Bealach, a Local Transport Partnership in Connemara, I know what a crucial lifeline these schemes are to rural communities, and particularly remote communities.
“These are services which are particularly badly needed by older people; 56% of those using the schemes are over 65. In the ten or so years since this scheme was established we have seen what a difference it can make to communities, and people have since come to rely greatly on it.
“What made it successful was its flexibility, and the community nature of it, incorporating a substantial voluntary aspect. If the minister’s proposals go ahead, I would be deeply concerned that that would be lost, and I understand that this is a view shared by many others who work in the sector, including Rural Link.
“The government is putting rural Ireland to the pin of its collar, as we have seen many communities deeply damaged by mass emigration, by closures of Garda stations, and loss of schools, and now, the rural transport scheme is being targeted. This will lead to a reduction in quality and flexibility of services, which will mean that many isolated and elderly rural people will have their mobility curtailed. We are totally opposed to the centralisation of this scheme, and urge the minister to maintain the existing service.”