Rural publicans want 'Drink -Link' tax incentives

Ross under fire for 'to Hell or to Connacht attitude'

Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Publicans have called for tax breaks to help boost rural transport services.

Last week Transport Minister Shane Ross announced details of a pilot rural transport service which will operate across 19 counties in Ireland from 6pm-11pm during the weekends in the summer months.

However, the plan, which has been labelled 'Drink-Link' has failed to take in any counties in Connacht.

Alan Gielty, owner of Gielty's Pub in Dooagh in Achill Island, Co Mayo and county chair of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), bought a Volkswagen transporter a number of years ago to carry his rural customers to and from the pub.

He claimed the failure of Minister Ross' plan to incorporate counties in the west is the same "hell or to Connacht attitude" the government has always had to the region, but doesn't think the plan would've been viable in the rural area anyway.

"We are disappointed that we are left out but I don't know how viable it would be in areas as isolated as north Mayo because it's a very scattered, catchment area. I'm sure a lot of buses wouldn't go down the narrow roads where some lads live because they wouldn't be able to get up there.

"It's the same hell or to Connacht attitude the government always has. If you look at the 2040 Plan there's no plans in there that include north Mayo," he said.

Instead of the 'drink-link' bus, Mr Gielty thinks pub owners should be offered a tax incentive to transport their rural customers to and from the pub.

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"I paid €26,000 for the nine-seater Volkswagen and it's only second hand. I think if a tax incentive was offered pub owners would be more than happy to drop and collect their customers," he said.

Mr Gielty said he "can be sent in any direction of an evening" but is happy that his customers are getting out.

"The rural pub is like a community centre for many bachelors or for those who are retired. It's a real community hub. You can have three or four people in a car and they're all going different directions.

"The pub is the community centre of rural areas and if you're at home all day on your own farming, it can be very isolating if you can't get out," he said.

Mr Gielty will discuss this topic at the VFI's annual conference in Letterkenny today.

Rural Link Policy and Communications Officer Louise Lennon said while the organisation welcomes the plans by Minister Ross, it hopes that the "drink-link" label will be quashed.

"This is an insult to the service that Local Link provides in rural areas.

"It's an extension of day services and will transport people who are working late in different sectors and will save them getting a taxi," she said.

She added that it would like to see an extension of services to western counties and for it to be flexible to the different needs of different regions.

ICMSA's Denis Drennan said: "These trial bus services at least demonstrates that the Government sees the problem of rural transport and isolation and is an acknowledgement that official policies have contributed massively to these challenges", said Mr Drennan.

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