Aontú Councillor Sarah O’Reilly has spoken out against Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, for her refusal to change the criteria for blind people’s entitlement to free travel passes.

Cllr. O’Reilly stated:

“The government continues to stand over an unjust and unfair system that affects approximately 700 blind people.

“700 people are ineligble for a driver’s licence becaue of sight loss. These same people do not meet the very restrictive criteria set by Minister Doherty for a free travel pass. It is illogical that the bar set for being too visually impaired to drive is out of sync with the level of blindness that the government requires of someone for a travel pass. If someone is deemed to be to be too blind to drive, he or she should automatically meet the criteria for a free travel card.

“This is an intolerable situation for a very vulnerable group of people. Since January, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) have been campaigning hard to compel the government to change its stance. However, Minister Doherty has consciously failed to act to make the lives of those affected any easier.

“Aontú stands fully behind NCBI’s demands that people who are deemed ineligible to drive for reasons of sight lose should be granted free travel passes. The cost of transport for blind people without a free travel pass, particularly for those in isolated parts of the country is unsustainable and unduly burdensome.

“Aontú is calling for an immediate change to the manner in which people with sight loss are assessed for free travel passes to ensure that if someone is deemed ineligible to drive because of sight loss, he or she is provided with a travel pass. Refusal to constructively act on this is indicative of government callousness towards a vulnerable and marginalised group of people”.