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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

From the Classroom to the Grave

Anthony McIntyre • The Other View, Summer 2005

Putting my four year old on the school bus this morning, seeing her safely seat belted in, I walked home content in the belief that I would have her back with me at the end of the school day. As the bus faded out of view, my thoughts drifted to the families of those five children who lost their lives in the Meath school bus tragedy. At the time the accident was unfolding I was travelling on a bus from County Monaghan. Whenever I use that route, the bus station in Armagh city is crammed with children waiting to make the journey home to their families. Most disembark at Portadown. The journey isn't long for them. They are excitable but good-humoured. Like many adolescents in the company of their peers they enjoy being loud. Banter is their forte. While the bus is seat belt equipped, the children never put them on. It restrains their ability to hit one of their friends a playful crack on the back of the head somewhere up the bus or rapidly interchange with each other as they swap the news of the day or their plans for the weekend.

The Bus Eireann vehicle involved in the Meath tragedy was not fitted with seat belts. Believe it or not, this is perfectly legal under Department of Transport regulations. Some concerned observers have taken to calling for parents to boycott the bus unless seatbelts are installed. This confronts parents with a difficult choice. The poorer sections of society are dependent on public transport to get their children to their place of learning. They may feel it self-defeating to deny their children education in the hope of attaining seatbelts they may never use.

Would the accident have been prevented had seatbelts been installed in the vehicle carrying the deceased children? It is unlikely. Taking the horse to the water is one thing, getting it to drink while there is something else altogether. It is not as if the children are unaware of the risks. Cigarette smoking kills more people every year than traffic accidents. Kids know the consequences but insist on doing their own thing all the same. Armagh bus station has no shortage of young smokers waiting to make the homebound journey. Would they be any more amenable to the argument for wearing seatbelts than they would be to one for kicking the smoking habit?

Yet society must be protected and that means protecting the children of society whether they will it or not. But how is a seatbelt rule to be implemented? Are those who refuse to wear them to be fined? And what use are seatbelts on a bus for 56 people if the authorities insist on allowing almost a hundred kids to board it? Such sardine like packing resonates of the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy in Sheffield just over 16 years ago. Society's system failing society's citizens by jemmying them into spatially inadequate locations clearly never designed to house them.

Minister for Transport Martin Cullen cancelled his attendance at the European Conference of Transport Ministers in Moscow in order to return to the country immediately. The transport system to which he returns is shoddy, the inevitable consequence of what Green Party deputy leader Mary White says is 'this lopsided wealth of ours.'

Ireland is the world's seventh most oil-dependent economy. Yet rather than provide first class public services including transport it invests public money on the road network to facilitate the private road user.

Last year there was a total of 379 road traffic accident deaths in the Republic. With greater emphasis on roads rather than on public transport the figure can only get worse. Irish citizens and their children deserve much better. In the meantime get the emergency plans ready for the next disaster. Without a holistic approach to the transport question we are simply counting down the days.





















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

23 October 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinkin Badges
Mags Glennon

A Long Way Down
Anthony McIntyre

A Party of Their Own
Mick Hall

Reid's Sectarian Slur
Eamon McCann

Repeal Anti-Catholic Section of Act of Settlement 1701
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Nicola McCartney & the Facts About Irish History
Seaghán Ó Murchu

Usual Suspects
Anthony McIntyre

Socialism in Ireland
Francis McDonnell

Turning "Smoke ban" thing into ANTI-DIOXIN movement
John Jonik

From the Classroom to the Grave
Anthony McIntyre

Yet More Voices Against Censorship
Davy Carlin

The Death Fast Enters its 6th Year
Tayad Committee

Setting Up Abbas
Jeff Halper

6 October 2005

A Bleak Future
Anthony McIntyre

Provos Censor de Chastelain in Bid to Lie About Guns
Tom Luby

Taking Politics Out of the Gun
Brendan O'Neill

Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party
Mick Hall

Live From Hollywood: The IRA Disarms
Harry Browne

Show Us the Money
Dr John Coulter

Doris Dead
Anthony McIntyre

Whatever Happened to... 'er, You Know... Whatshisname?
Tom Luby

The Dirty War Goes On
George Young

Reject All British Institutions
Kevin Murphy

Capitalism Vs Socialism
Liam O Ruairc

Apology to Dr Dion Dennis and CTheory website
Carrie Twomey



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