Hike in fines to stop Longford drivers 'abusing' disabled parking spaces

Aisling Kiernan

Reporter:

Aisling Kiernan

Email:

aisling.kiernan@longfordleader.ie

IWA

Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Cllr Mae Sexton, Connie Gerety Quinn, Cllr Seamus Butler, Cllr Joe Flaherty, Derek Crage, Peter Warnock and Martin Tarmey.

In 2015, 91 fines were issued to drivers who parked illegally in disabled car parking spaces in Longford town.

The following year, 97 were issued, and last year, 73 able-bodied drivers faced the wrath of the Irish legal system for their bad behaviour in public car parks.

Yet, those gathered at the ‘Back in 5’ parking campaign outside Longford Library last Friday morning heard that those fines have not deterred drivers from using disabled parking bays in the county town.

ALSO READ: Pictures: Local campaign highlights 'abuse' of disabled parking spaces in Longford town

The Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) in partnership with Longford County Council held the campaign to highlight the frustration people with disabilities face on a daily basis when able-bodied people park their cars in wheelchair accessible spaces without a valid parking permit.

Those gathered heard that the campaign aimed to create awareness around the issue by placing wheelchairs in regular car spaces with messages like ‘Just gone to the bank’ or ‘Just popping in to get the newspaper’ or ‘Be back in five minutes’.

“It is statements like this that are used by able-bodied people who use disabled parking spaces without a valid parking permit or reason to do so,” the campaign - which attracted a large crowd - was told by Martin Tarmey, Service Co-ordinator IWA Kenagh.

“The desired outcome and the rationale behind the campaign is to draw attention to the abuse of accessible parking bays and to highlight the need to maintain and increase the number of accessible parking bays in the town and throughout Co Longford.”

Meanwhile, Minister of State for OPW, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran said it was important that people “respect” disabled parking spaces.

He said that he also challenged a driver in Athlone whom he observed parking in a disabled bay there.

“I watched a man park in a wheelchair space, get out of his car and walk into a shop; I wasn’t going to say anything to him but I did,” added the Minister.

“I asked him if he realised that somebody may want to use that spot in an emergency and pointed out to him that it was the only disabled parking space in that particular area.

“He said to me, ‘ah sure I was only there for five minutes’ but I told him that the space was right next to a doctor’s surgery and the person needing that spot could arrive in an emergency situation.

“I told him that by parking there he was depriving someone who needed it.

“I told him that he shouldn’t do this.”

Minister Moran, meanwhile, went on to say that the effort in Longford to highlight the plight was very commendable.

“I am delighted to hear that the fine for parking in a disabled parking space in Longford has now gone up to €150 but I have campaigned nationally to have it increased to €200,” he added.

“I believe that people with disabilities deserve these parking spaces and it is great to see you all out campaigning for what you are entitled to.”