Deputy Willie Penrose has welcomed the publication of ‘Giving Rural Ireland a Lift’ by Deputy Tommy Broughan, Labour Party Spokesperson on Transport. This set of proposals outlines the Labour Party’s suggestions for maintaining and protecting rural public bus services.
Deputy Penrose said: “Notwithstanding the recommendations of the McCarthy Report, support for the rural transport scheme is absolutely vital for rural Ireland. They provide services for the elderly and for many people who reside on their own or in isolated areas, and fulfil an important social need of enabling these people to attend hospital appointments, conduct private business, or even attend certain events.
“We all are aware that rural society is being affected by the changing nature of local services, with the loss of post offices and the closure of shops and pubs being evident. Very often these were the focal points for social interchange and discussion and helped combat loneliness and isolation.
“However, recently rural public bus services have come under sustained attack from the Fianna Fail/Green government. There has been a savage programme of cutbacks proposed for Bus Eireann fleets and services. The Government is also considering ending completely the Department of Transport’s funding for the innovative, community-based Rural Transport Programme (RTP ) (which was also recommended in the McCarthy Report ).
“The Labour Party believes that access to decent public transport services should be a right of every citizen wherever they live.
“In 2008 the 36 RTP companies in every county across Ireland received just €8.3 million directly in funding. Transport Minister Noel Dempsey must now make sure that this relatively small funding allocation is maintained under Budget 2010 in order to protect critical bus services for tens of thousands of citizens living in rural Ireland,” concluded Deputy Penrose.