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Mary Lou McDonald welcomes All Ireland free travel promise

26 June, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has today welcomed plans for pensioners throughout Ireland to avail of free public transport no matter where they travel on the island. Ms McDonald hailed the expected move as an improvement in "social mobility for pensioners and a step foward".

The announcement is expected after British Direct Rule Minister Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern meet to discuss the proposals in Hillsborough later today.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"I want to welcome today‚s announcement for free travel for pensioners throughout the entire island of Ireland. Whilst this announcement is long overdue, it certainly presents a fantastic opportunity for senior citizens across Ireland to avail of public transport and travel across Ireland without financial limitations.

"This will undoubtedly lead to a greater sense of freedom and improved social mobility for pensioners in Ireland. To compliment this announcement, greater investment is required in our road and rail infrastructure, particularly in areas of economic disadvantage, including the West of Ireland, Border Counties and the North West of Ireland.

"Earlier this year I wrote to the European Commission asking about free travel for pensioners. One of the interesting things about the response is that under European Law, the granting of free travel passes to nationals would ensure that access must also be granted 'in a non-discriminatory way to all EU nationals complying with the same conditions applicable to nationals'. Should both the British and Irish Government come to an agreement today on All Ireland travel, then it must be applied evenly across the board to both nationals and non-nationals.

"There should be no impediment to travel. Ireland has a wonderful reputation as an internationally renowned tourist destination. Even for those who reside in Ireland, there are wonderful attractions in all corners of the country waiting to be explored." ENDS

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