19 September 2002 Edition

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Rural children not even at back of the bus

West Clare Sinn Féin's Joe Keane says regulations excluding children from availing of concessionary fares of ¤51 per term on Bus éireann unless they live more than three miles from their school should be scrapped.

"My family lives 2.7 miles from the school; consequently my son is denied a concessionary fare to school," says Keane. "I can see no justification or equality in such a blatantly discriminatory ruling. To think that 0.3 of a mile is the difference between my son getting to and from school safely on a bus is incredulous."

The chair of the West Clare cumann says many thousands of children right across the state face the same dilemma, due to an offending ruling in existence since the 1960s. "It is high time to get rid of it now as life is very different from that time, given the increased danger children face with higher volumes of traffic on our roads," says Keane.

He adds that many parents now have to work outside of the home, so it is often not possible for them to drive their children to and from school and they depend on the school bus. "When the cost of this is put beyond them, many children are vulnerable when exposed to speeding vehicles on narrow country roads. Add to this the risk of abduction, assaul, or worse, that we are constantly reminded about in our newspapers, and this policy is a recipe for disaster."

"Our children are the future of our country. It is time that Fianna Fáil ditched the rules that discriminate against our children and make the necessary investment to transport them all safely to and from their place of education," says Keane.

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