Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Free Travel for Old Age Pensioners.

41.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare the conditions under which free travel facilities are afforded to old age pensioners.

The free travel facilities on CIE services are afforded to old age and blind pensioners who are in possession of a current pension book to which has been affixed a notice setting out the conditions under which the concession operates. The concession will not be available, however,

(1) on services not shown in the Board's rail and bus time-tables;

(2) on radio, excursion or special trains;

(3) on motor coach tours or special bus services;

(4) on city bus services, Monday to Friday inclusive, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. in Dublin, Cork and Limerick;

(5) on long-distance bus services leaving Dublin, Cork and Limerick between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Fridays within a 20 mile radius of those cities;

(6) on long-distance bus and rail services from noon on Friday to midnight on Sunday of the August Bank Holiday week-end and from 23rd to 27th December inclusive;

(7) for organised group travel on any service.

When requested to do so by an official of Córas Iompair Éireann, a pensioner must give his signature and show his pension order book. Before undertaking any long-distance rail journey, a pensioner must give particulars of the journey and obtain a standard class ticket.

Is the Minister aware that I put this question down to the Minister for Transport and Power on the assumption that regulations made in relation to this matter of travel concessions, moryah, to the old aged was being dealt with by that Department and that I am at a loss to understand why the Minister for Social Welfare should answer? However, I want to ask him is he satisfied that the old age pensioners and widows and people who are generally deemed to be entitled to free transport should be denied that, for instance, when going to Mass on Christmas Day, that they should be specifically excluded from availing of the bus if they are to go to Mass on Christmas Day? That is one example of the begrudging nature of these so-called concessions.

A small point.

"A small point", says the Minister for Justice.

Justice, how are you! He would not recognise it in this world or the next.

It is only small points such as these that show——

Is the Deputy asking a question?

(Interruptions.)

I want to ask the Minister for Social Welfare does he consider that the implementation of the concept of free travel for these classes should not be contained in such restrictive regulations as this, that the full freedom of our travel facilities should be made available to the old aged and to the widows? Had that been done in a liberal and decent way, it would not in fact detract from the income of CIE. It would add a good public image to CIE which it badly needs.

The Deputy is making a speech.

Would the Minister not agree that, in view of the fact that many well-paid employees of CIE have the facility of free travel——

(Interruptions.)

Deputies may interrupt as much as they like. They will not shout me down.

I am calling Question No. 42. The Deputy must obey the rules of the House like any other Deputy.

I am sorry; in the cacophony I did not hear your voice, Sir. To return to the question——

I have called the next question.

With your permission, I should like to ask a supplementary question also.

You never get in.

(Interruptions.)

The Minister will appreciate my difficulties in view of the disorderly conduct of his colleagues.

The old age pensioners would not travel very far on what you gave them.

(Interruptions.)

Might I ask the Minister if the facilities envisaged here for old age pensioners and others who will travel by CIE public services will be available to similar persons using the Lough Swilly Railway bus services in County Donegal?

Is it clear that all types of pensioners in the categories which the Minister mentioned, are entitled to free travel, as little as it is, those who are in receipt of contributory and noncontributory pensions?

All old age pensioners, contributory and noncontributory, are entitled to the concession, provided they are holders of pension books.

This does not mean that free travel is extended to orphans?

Why not?

Mr. O'Malley

If they are going to school, I will give it to them.

I want to answer Deputy Cunningham first and reply to his rather sensible question relating to County Donegal. We are in communication with the Lough Swilly Bus Company at the moment to have the necessary arrangements made. In regard to the few hours during which we do not permit pensioners to travel, I should like to point out that it is not a very desirable thing to bring old people out during the peak travel period, apart from other considerations. Nobody would want to see these people left standing at bus stops or waiting there in peak travel periods, apart from the fact that it is more suitable for the scheme to use the low peak travel hours. This applies to cities only. Apart from the few exceptions we make—it may sound a lot in the regulations but it relates only to peak travel times—there is a very magnanimous view towards those old people about whom up to now nobody seemed to think.

Arising out of that—

Will the Deputy please resume his seat? I have called on the Minister for Education to reply to Question No. 42.

In that case you are letting your Donegal constituency colleagues get away with misrepresentations here. We raised this question here years ago and have raised it several times since.

Will Deputy Dunne please resume his seat?

With your permission, I will take this matter up later on the Adjournment.

Mr. O'Malley

He will communicate with the Deputy in the afternoon.