ELDERLY rural dwellers "might as well die" if the Government scales back the Rural Transport Scheme, a councillor claimed this week.
Cllr Frank O'Flynn (FF) made the comment at Monday's meeting of Cork County Council where a Fianna Fáil motion called on the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Alan Kelly to maintain the Rural Transport Scheme in its current form. The motion came following indications that the scheme is to be completely revamped.
Cllr O'Flynn told the council that as board member of the Avondhu Blackwater Partnership he was well aware of the value of the Rural Transport Scheme .
"This is an attack on rural Ireland by the present government," Cllr O'Flynn said.
"I see the elderly people who use this week to week - if this goes, they might as well die. The funds are there from Europe to help people with their quality of life and independence. This gives them their trip into town to meet friends for a cup of tea or coffee, or their trip to the bank or post office. These are the people who slaved away all their lives and gave us our quality of life," he said.
Party colleague Cllr Aindrius Moynihan said the initiative is a "lifeline" for isolated rural dwellers, and that the threat to the service showed the government's priorities, given that the Luas in Dublin is to be extended to areas already well serviced by Dublin Bus.
"It is leaning on existing networks, bringing people to bus stops to link in with Bus Eireann. It does more than that, though, it brings essential human contact," he said.
Fine Gael Council leader Cllr Kevin Murphy accused Fianna Fáil of scaremongering, and said that there were no plans to abolish the service.