Seanad debates

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Public Transport

10:30 am

Photo of Erin McGreehanErin McGreehan (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I, too, welcome the Minister. I am delighted he could be here with us this morning. What prompted me to put forward this Commencement matter was anger and frustration in regard to the inconsistent access to public transport in this country, which I hear about and witness, but do not experience because I am able-bodied. When I want to travel by train or bus I can do so. However, for thousands of citizens in this country who wish to travel they have to jump through hoops. They have to pre-book, plan and make arrangements and be ready to be let down at all times. They face barriers and blockages and cannot obtain either access or answers. These are our friends and neighbours and their human rights are being denied and, often, ignored.

I want to a highlight a particular situation that occurred last Saturday. Vicky Matthew took to Facebook to highlight that Connolly railway station in Dublin had failed to meet its obligations to her as a customer. She had given 24 hours notice that she would require ramp and assistance. This lady did everything that she was supposed to do, but she was abandoned on the train. She telephoned the station for help, but nobody arrived to assist. A random passenger helped her by getting a ramp to enable her to get off the train. This is unacceptable. We have to find a better way of providing equity in our society.

Another situation involved a man from Louth, Mr. John Morgan, who highlighted to me that he had been prevented from travelling to Wales to see a relative. He had purchased flights and planned to travel to Dublin Airport from Dundalk via the Bus Éireann 100X service. He left home early in the morning to ensure he would be on time for his flight. He had contacted Bus Eireann two weeks in advance to ask about wheelchair accessibility on the 100X service. His call was promptly returned and he was told that the bus leaving Dundalk was not accessible. It is not an accessible route and that meant he could not get to the airport. Owing the lack of infrastructure, he was prevented from travelling.

The infrastructure on public transport does not fully enable the freedom of movement on all modes of transport. This is not only about access, it is about having to give notice. It is about singling people out to be different, making them do things differently to those of us who are able bodied. Therefore, it is not about choice but about planning ahead for a smooth journey to become a reality. The lack of accessible transport services impacts on inclusion, social interaction, jobs, education and mental health. The cost of living with a disability affects not only the disabled person but his or her family and community, as well as every aspect of his or her life. For some disabled people, transport is inaccessible for small and simple reasons such as human error, lengthy pre-booking requirements, inaccessible routes and because the built environment does not link with the transport service, that is, the bus does not connect with the pavement.When that happens it means that the route is inaccessible.

Independent Living Movement Ireland has done excellent research and I am delighted the Minister is in the House as I can give him copies of its research. The organisation is a disabled person's organisation, DPO, that is run by people who know their story best, which means they are the best advocates for themselves.

I highlighted in my Commencement matter that our rights are obligations of the State, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD. Article 9 relates to transport and states "To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications". We should not block them and I hope that we will adopt the optional protocol to the convention, as it will ensure that we are accountable for not taking action on accessibility.


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