People Before Profit want to put the brakes on Green’s congestion charge

People Before Profite candidate for Ireland South in the European Elections, Cian Prendiville.

A PROPOSAL from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to move towards congestion charges in Irish cities has been sharply criticised by People Before Profit locally.

However a local Green Party TD has said that such plans are not on the table for Limerick.

In a proposal to the cabinet, the Transport Minister said he wants local councils to draw up traffic plans by 2026 and discuss the possibility of congestion charges.

At the last full meeting of Limerick City and County Council, an amendment which could see the number of cars on the roads of Limerick halved over the next six years was passed. Councillors were asked to adopt the Climate Action Plan (CAP) and the only councillor to propose amendments to the plan was Green Party councillor Seán Hartigan.

Among Cllr Hartigan’s three amendments was an aim to reduce car usage in Limerick by 50 per cent by 2030.

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This week, Ireland South MEP candidate for People Before Profit, Cian Prendiville, has come out strongly against the idea of congestion charges put forward by the Green’s proposal.

“Air pollution is a serious issue in Irish cities. There are approximately 1,700 premature deaths (680 from cardiovascular disease) in the South, and 900 (with 300 from cardiovascular disease) in the North. These are attributable to exposure to fine particulate air pollution — often from the exhaust pipes of cars,” Mr Prendiville declared.

“The government ignored this scandal for decades. But now they are reaching into the neoliberal playbook for a solution. They want to acclimatise us to congestion charges and will try to introduce them in the coming years.

“Congestion charges create class barriers to entry to cities. Wealthy people will be able to drive into less congested city centres. The poor will have to rely on infrequent public transport.”

There is a different way, Mr Prendiville believes, to get people out of cars and minimise traffic congestion.

“Introduce free and frequent public transport into our city centres. This has been implemented in many cities around the world and proven very successful.

“However, the supposedly Green Minister Eamon Ryan is opposed to free public transport. Incredibly, he suggested that it would lead to unnecessary journeys. But who is this Minister to tell us what is unnecessary?

“It is estimated that the cost of eliminating public transport fares is a mere €550million. But clearly, we would need to add extra buses and trains if this was to become workable. If we double that figure to over €1billion, we could embark on a programme of free public transport in a relatively short time. And there would be no need for congestion charges.”

Responding to Mr Prendiville’s comments, Limerick Green Party TD and local mayoral candidate Brian Leddin said that “congestion charges are not being proposed for anywhere in Limerick” by his party.

“The draft strategy that has been agreed by government, and is now out for public consultation, proposes congestion charges for Dublin and Cork but only as a solution of last resort.”

Deputy Leddin said that “the priority is to improve public transport systems and walking and cycling infrastructure in order to give people options other than driving before any consideration is given to congestion charges.”