Nolan: Offaly 'drink-link' bus falls short of what's needed
Offaly-North Tipperary TD, Carol Nolan has cautiously welcomed the new Rural Transport measures announced by Minister Shane Ross but has criticised the 11pm curfew imposed on the service.
Speaking from Leinster House, Deputy Nolan stated, “I have been actively campaigning on this issue over the past year and whilst I welcome some advancement and investment in rural transport services, Deputy Ross’s initiative falls very short of what rural TD’s are demanding."
It was revealed on Tuesday that the trial will only service one Offaly route in Cadamstown and will run only on Wednesday evenings. The trial period will cost in the region of €500,000 and if deemed a success, will be rolled out to more areas.
On Monday Minister Ross described the opposition by rural TDs to his proposed changes to drink-driving legislation as “filibustering and parliamentary guerrilla warfare” and whilst he claims the proposed rural transport routes are unconnected it is expected that the ‘pilot-scheme’ may quell some discontent, especially among Fine Gael backbenchers.
In response, Deputy Nolan described the Minister’s statement as “outrageous." She went on to state that “it is the responsibility of rural TDs to forensically examine the rural impact of all legislation.
"Any changes which seek to curtail the mobility of rural dwellers will have a social, economic and cultural impact both on those who travel, and those who depend on their custom," Carol said.
"Rural TDs are not opposed to reducing drink-driving incidents, quite the contrary, as it is primarily rural families who are decimated by drink-driving deaths and injuries. We are however are absolutely committed to ensuring that rural dwellers have alternative transport options of equivalence to that of urban dwellers," Nolan commented.
"The proposed new ‘nightime’ routes barely provide a minimal offering and as it is clearly targeted solely at older people, it will have no impact whatsoever on addressing the issue of young people drink-driving or people driving without insurance." Shane Ross has pointed out that the routes are limited because the initial announcement is for a six-month trial.
A Road Safety Authority (RSA) survey in 2017 revealed that 16% of people under the age of 24 admitted to having driven a car after consuming alcohol, a year-on-year increase in self-declaration from this age cohort.
"The RSA Figures for 2017 also show that the largest number of road deaths was in young people aged 16-25yrs and older people aged 66+. Of the 159 fatalities last year only 23 were in Dublin," Carol detailed.
"Furthermore the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) statistics for 2017 reveal an increase in claims against uninsured drivers in rural areas with an exponential rise in counties such as Leitrim at 70% and Roscommon 60%. The cost of uninsured driver claims annually cost between €55 & €60 million."
Deputy Nolan stated, “unless the Minister introduces a scheme which addresses the entirety of the problem, then he will be unable to draw any conclusions from the efficacy of this pilot initiative."
"It is a test scheme that is destined to fail. The Saturday and Sunday Nitelink Service in Dublin commences at midnight and concludes at 4am yet Minister Ross imagines all rural adults ought to go home to their beds at 11pm," Nolan commented.
"Given that young people are only heading out at this time of night, the new service will do absolutely nothing to reduce young people drink-driving; absolutely nothing to reduce the number of uninsured driver accidents and absolutely nothing to reduce the road kill in rural areas."
"If Minister Ross thinks this mere morsel will appease rural TDs and bring to an end their ‘filibustering and parliamentary guerrilla warfare’ then he has another thing coming."
"There is an urban mind-set which persistently views rural citizens as less worthy of services comparable to those of urban dwellers. It is the responsibility of rural TDs to advocate for rural equality and we will continue to do so until we get acceptable outcomes," Carol concluded.
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