Dáil Éireann - Volume 654 - 14 May, 2008

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the actions she has taken on foot of the commitments in the programme for Government to examine urgently the introduction of free travel for returning Irish citizens of pension age who live abroad. [18614/08]

  Deputy Mary Hanafin: The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over and to people receiving certain disability or care payments.

Following extension of the free travel scheme on an “all Island” basis proposals were put forward to extend the scheme to Irish born people living abroad and those receiving pensions from my Department. Officials of the Department have been examining the proposal and, in this regard, have engaged in discussions with EU Commission officials. However, at this stage, it has not been possible to progress the matter as, under EU legislation discrimination on grounds of nationality is prohibited.

More recently, the European Commission has indicated that to extend the scheme to people in receipt of an Irish pension could also be considered discriminatory.

[439] Questions Nos. 100 and 101 answered with Question No. 96.