Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Accessibility of Public Transport for People with Disabilities: Motion


6:35 pm

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the staff of the committee, especially Mr. Paul Kelly and Ms Etaoine Howlett, who helped in the preparation of the report. Without their help it would not have been the success that it clearly has been. I will thank those who spoke in the order in which they spoke. I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne. I thank Deputies Troy, Pringle, Broughan, O'Loughlin, Munster, Bríd Smith, Brendan Ryan and Lahart. We have had 11 speakers altogether in the debate. This shows how important it is to Members from all parties and from the Independent ranks. I wish to acknowledge the presence of the visitors in the Gallery. They include witnesses who came before the committee and gave their time, effort and ideas. I thank Mr. O'Leary in particular and his colleagues, as well as Mr. Ciarán Delaney. I left Ciarán until last because he is probably the most important person who we meet in the House. He is forever and always articulating, fighting for, supporting and trying to get change for people with disabilities. He personifies the importance of advocacy. That is what makes those of us who are politicians do things differently.

At the end of day we have 15 recommendations. We will have the Minister before the committee at the end of April. We will be asking for reports on each of the 15 individual recommendations. Preferably before then - and if not then thereafter - we might identify or fix on four or five other new things that will happen or that we want to happen before the next six months unfold.

I acknowledge the comment of the Minister, Deputy Ross, to the effect that we all agree on the significance of the development at the National Transport Authority. The authority has created the position of a transport accessibility manager. That means that at the heart of all purchasing, routing and licensing of public transport there will be a transport accessibility manager. The role will involve formal engagement. It will not be hit-and-miss affair but a formal engagement with key disability representative groups. The role will involve developing and monitoring an improvement plan for existing services and, as the Acting Chairman pointed out, issues relating to private service providers who may not necessarily have the facilities that public service providers are obliged to have and the question as to how one makes that happen. The role will also involve assisting in the development of retrofit programmes and ensuring that accessibility is built into all new public transport infrastructure. That is an absolute sine qua non. In fact, it is the only way forward.

I learned one thing in particular from our committee hearings. Some people came down to us from Belfast using the just-a-minute, JAM, card. If someone with a disability presents at the point of contact with the service a card with the letters "JAM", it is recognised in Northern Ireland. I hope it soon will be recognised all throughout the Republic as well. The idea is that the driver, who is professionally trained, will acknowledge and be aware instantly that the person has a disability and that adequate concern and time must be given to that individual. I believe the initiative works efficiently and well. That is a constructive and positive outcome from our deliberations.

It has been an honour to chair the committee. The report could not have happened without the support of all our members. I thank the Acting Chairman for chairing the debate. I look forward to meeting the Minister in the near future to set about making the progress that is so badly needed and that everyone in the House, including ourselves and the witnesses in the Gallery, is fighting for.


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