Gordon Brown’s move to give free off-peak bus travel to pensioners could boost the campaign to allow Irish pensioners based in Britain to have free travel when they visit Ireland.
Irish Labour Chief Whip Emmet Stagg had this to say today:
Following the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain, Gordon Brown, in his budget speech today, of the decision to grant free local travel to pensioners in the UK, I would urge our own government to now negotiate a reciprocal arrangement with Britain to allow pensioners in both countries to avail of each others free travel arrangements.
One of the key recommendations of the report of the Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants was the introduction of measures to help elderly emigrants take holidays in Ireland as a means of maintaining links with family and friends at home.
To facilitate this, the Irish community in Britain in particular, has urged that the free travel service, available to pensioners in this country, be made available to Irish pensioners in Britain when they travel to this country.
The government have dragged their feet on this initiative, but the proposals in the British budget now provide an ideal opportunity to act. A reciprocal arrangement already exists that allows pensioners in Northern Ireland to avail of free travel in this jurisdiction and vice versa.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte also met on Tuesday with representatives of the Aisling Project, which helps helps arranged visits to Ireland for disadvantaged emigrants, many of whom haven’t seen the country in decades.