Free travel for Irish diaspora

The Irish Labour Party plan a postcard campaign to urge the Irish government to expand the free travel scheme for pensioners to all elderly members of the Irish diaspora, many of whom live in poverty in Britain and elsewhere.

Launching the drive, Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said those who were forced to emigrate in previous decades had sent home £3.5 billion between 1939 and 1969 to help sustain families and communities at a time of dire poverty back home.

Under the Labour plan all Irish citizen pensioners who travelled to Ireland would have the same free travel rights as those resident here.

“Those who have grown up in the relative prosperity of recent decades may not be aware that hundreds of thousands of Irish people were forced to emigrate to Britain through economic and cultural circumstances to earn a living through manual work, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte said the plan would be a “real expression of the value of Irish emigrants”.

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