Fine Gael TD for Kildare South Martin Heydon has today (Thursday) highlighted the Government’s commitment to the Free Travel Scheme for older people which was included in the Governments statement of priorities for 2014-16, published last week. He was speaking following the decision this week by Age Action Ireland to wind down its campaign in relation to the scheme.

“There has been a lot of discussion and speculation about the future of this scheme in recent weeks. The Government has always voiced its strong commitment to this very important scheme and there was never any risk to the scheme.

“This popular scheme in place since 1967, is now universally available to all persons permanently living in the State aged 66 and over as well as carers in receipt of Carers Allowance and certain others such as persons in receipt of Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension. In excess of 20% of the total national population benefits from the scheme at present.

“The cost of the scheme has risen significantly in recent years but it has been protected in all of our budgets to date and will continue to be. There has been a review of the scheme ongoing but this is not unusual for a scheme that is almost fifty years old. As part of our reform process, we want to ensure that all schemes are operating correctly and look at their future development.

“The ongoing speculation about the future of the scheme caused much concern among its recipients and so I pushed for clarity and confirmation of our commitment to the scheme. I am happy that this commitment has now been confirmed by the Minsters for Social Protection and Transport.