Rural students stranded by refusal from bus they've taken for years
Alice Dunne (17) is going into fifth year at Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise, this week where she'll be joined by younger sister Ellen (12) who is starting first year.
But despite Alice using a Bus Éireann service to get to Portlaoise for the past four years, her parents have been told there's no space on the bus this year.
The Dunnes aren't automatically eligible as the nearest school to their home is in Monasterevin, Co Kildare.
They are just two of the 14 children in the rural Emo and Vicarstown communities who've been refused concessionary bus seats.
The children all went to a national school where pupils traditionally go on to secondary school in Portlaoise. But their homes are marginally closer to the towns of Monasterevin, Portarlington and Athy.
Due to an increase in the number of eligible first-years on the 33-seat bus on the route to Portlaoise, there was just one concessionary seat available. The affected families are in the process of appealing the decision to the School Transport Appeals Board. They are also due to meet Junior Minister John Halligan this week.
Alice and Ellen's father Dermot says the families want Bus Éireann to reinstate a 52-seat bus that previously served the route before 2009.
Bus Éireann has said the rules don't allow for larger buses to be placed on route at extra cost to the State to cater for concessionary passengers. For now, Mr Dunne doesn't know how the girls will get to school as both he and his wife work full-time.