State backtracks on free travel for emigrant OAPs
The Government has admitted that it cannot meet a key commitment to provide free travel for Irish emigrants.
Although all Irish people over the age of 66 are entitled to free transport on public transport, the benefit is denied to elderly Irish emigrants visiting.
Despite a pledge in programme for Government to "work to deliver free public transport for emigrant pensioners when they visit Ireland," Social and Family Affairs Minister Martin Cullen admitted this can't be currently delivered.
"Legal advice indicates that it would not be possible to extend entitlement to free travel to Irish-born people living abroad, as to do so would be contrary to European legislation, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality," he said.
However, Labour party chief whip Emmet Stagg attacked the Government for opposing a complaint being made to the European Committee on Social Rights, which is investigating if the denial of free travel is in breach of the EU's social charter.
"The Government have fought against that tooth and nail to prevent them having to grant free travel.
"This flies in the face of their statements in the Dail, where they are saying the EU won't allow them to do this," he said.