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Iarnrod Eireann apologise to gay couple over travel pass rejection

August 16th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Irish Rail, Same Sex Partnerships

Iarnrod Eireann have ‘sincerely’ apologised to a gay man and his husband for an incident in Heuston Station on Sunday where they were prevented from travelling on a train to Cork because the ticket checker and station master would not allow them to travel on a Department of Social Protection travel pass.  The pass was issued to one of the couple on the basis of his Disability Allowance and it permitted him to take his spouse with him.

The couple were married in Spain and under the Civil Partnerships and Certain Rights of Cohabitants Act 2011 their marriage is recognised in Irish law.  When the act came into force an application was made to extend the travel pass to the spouse and was immediately granted by the Department of Social Protection.

Officials in Heuston Station (including the station master) did not seem to know that the law had changed.  In correspondence sent to me it was clear that distress had been caused to the passengers as they were trying to make their journey.  After a delay (and a missed train) permission was given to the passenger and his husband to travel.

He wasn’t going to refuse me and my husband to travel but that as far as he was concerned the policy of Irish Rail was that same-sex couples were not allowed to use a travel pass and he promptly passed the blame over to the Department of Social Welfare and Irish Rail for a failure to communicate.

A complaint was made to Irish Rail yesterday and a swift apology issued by spokesman Barry Kenny which acknowledged that the incident had taken place and that staff in the station were not aware that the rules had changed .

Readers may remember prior to Civil Partnership recognition that Irish Rail instructed its staff to prevent same sex couples from benefiting from free travel under spousal passes due to the Social Welfare Amendment Act 2004.  They even put notices up in the ticket checkers cabins on the matter.  The company said that this was not their instruction but implementation of the law from the Department of Social Welfare.  They repeated this in their apology yesterday and added that they hoped to be able to welcome the passenger and his husband on board their services in the future. Ironically the passengers had been returning from the LGBT Noise March for Marriage Equality when they attempted to make their journey.

All Iarnrod Eireann staff will be receiving information this week updating them on the changes in legislation regarding spousal travel passes and their application to same sex couples who are married or in civil partnerships.  Better late than never maybe but very unfortunate that it had to happen at all. I didn’t think I would be writing about travel passes and civil partnerships and same sex couples ever again.   If anyone sees this new circular stuck up in a cabin be a dear and take a pic and send it to me?  Thank you.

For Iarnrod Eireann staff and others who want to know more about Civil Partnerships and Social Welfare there is a useful publication from the Department of Social Protection available.


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