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'Give everyone a free Interrail pass for their 18th birthday' - senator

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Neale Richmond, who wants Interrail passes for all

Neale Richmond, who wants Interrail passes for all

Neale Richmond, who wants Interrail passes for all

A Dublin senator has called for Interrail passes to be given to all EU teens on their 18th birthday.

Inter-railing around Europe has long been a right of passage for many college students and Neale Richmond has backed calls for it to be made available for everyone.

His comments come after German MEP Manfred Weber started a campaign for the unusual birthday present to be funded by the European Commission.

"A lot of people, especially the younger generation, don't realise what Europe has done for them and they might enjoy their five weeks in Europe and decide to stay on and work in a cafe in France and realise that they are entitled to do that because of the EU," he told the Herald.

Having easy access to EU cities across the continent could also stave off any anti-EU sentiment in the wake of Britain's decision to leave the EU, according to Mr Richmond.

"In the wake of Brexit and with the rise of Eurosceptic parties across the continent, it has become quite clear that the EU faces a perilous future, with many citizens feeling a clear disconnect from it," he said.

"It is vital now that the EU goes to extra lengths to demonstrate the benefits of the EU, particularly to those of a generation who do not remember the dark days of the Second World War or who have grown up taking for granted common travel, the free movement of people, Erasmus and a common currency.

"It is a great way to connect young Europeans," he added.

The Fine Gael politician from Ballinteer said he had the chance to travel around Europe during his time in UCD.

Belief

"As a student, I was very fortunate to travel across Europe on an Interrail ticket and it was that experience that plays such a large part in my belief in the greatness of the European project," he said.

Richmond flew into Paris and inter-railed for five weeks, taking in Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Milan, Rome and Nice.

During his second trip he took in Eastern Europe.

"I got a great understanding of what is to be European," he said.

"People need to go and experience these things, not just read about them in textbooks," he added.

Meanwhile, tourism bosses in Ireland are celebrating our best-ever August for tourism with some 1.25 million visits recorded.

It was also the best-ever period from January to August for overseas visitors to Ireland, with the numbers jumping 12.3pc to around 6.55 million people who visited from overseas.

Visitors from North America, Britain and Europe were all up.

With such a strong start to the year, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said the attention is now turning to attracting late-season visitors to the country.

"This was a strong performance and reflects the sentiment we are hearing from our travel partners overseas, including tour operators and carriers, as well as tourism businesses here at home.

"We are determined to ensure that tourism growth continues," he said.


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