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No more excuses says Crowe - EU clears way for Minister to provide free travel pass for EU citizens in receipt of Irish pensions

22 March, 2006


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs, Seán Crowe TD has urged Minister Seamus Brennan to stop searching for excuses for not introducing a free travel pass to pensioners who receive a pension from Ireland but reside outside Ireland.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon in response to a question from Deputy Crowe, Minister Brennan stated that the reason he has not introduced this benefit to pensioners was because of advice from the Attorney General.

However, Deputy Crowe drew the Ministers attention to a reply received by Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald from the European Commission, which states that, “EU law would not prevent the Irish Government from granting a free travel pass to pensioners who receive a pension from Ireland but reside outside Ireland.”

Deputy Crowe said,  "The Minister has already stated that it is not a financial matter, so we must ask why has it not been made a reality already?  Why does Minister Brennan wish to wait and see British Chancellor Gordon Brown making moves on this issue?  Can the Irish government not grab the initiative instead of once again waiting for Britain to make the first move?

"The time for excuses is over.  It would appear that the Government’s legal advice is baseless.  I do welcome the fact that the Minister has said he will look at the information received by Sinn Féin from the EU Commission.  I would urge him to do that speedily.

"Given the fact that he has already agreed in principle to grant free travel to those 31,852 people in Britain in receipt of an Irish pension and has said that finance isn’t an issue it is seems ridiculous that this situation cannot be resolved quickly.  There are only 917 people in receipt of an Irish pension residing elsewhere in the EU, so granting this free travel pass to these will satisfy that it is non-discriminatory and furthermore it is hardly going to break the bank".

Text from EU Commission response to Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald

…it is up to each Member State to decide whether it wants to grant free access to some public services such as public transport, to the elderly.  But if it chooses to do this, EC law requires it to grant such a free access in a non-discriminatory way to all EU nationals complying with the same conditions applicable to nationals. 

EU law would not prevent the Irish Government from granting free travel pass to pensioners who receive a pension from Ireland but reside outside Ireland.  However, EU law does require that if the free travel scheme was to be extended in such a way it would have to be non-discriminatory and would have to be available to all beneficiaries of an Irish pension regardless of their nationality.

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