IT MUST be said that the staff do what they can and are obliging and professional in every way and have a duty of care about them when they go about their business.

But then again they can only do so much when those who run the organisation choose to disregard the needs of the marginalised.

It’s a pretty serious claim to make about a semi-State body, who should be seen to cherish all its citizens equally, but in this case seeing is believing. And what you see doesn’t make for nice viewing.

It’s Ennis Train Station on a Friday afternoon – there’s a train coming down the tracks from Gort that will go to Limerick, while there’s another coming from the Limerick direction that will take passengers all the way to Galway.

For those able bodied and mobile of foot among us and heading to the Treaty City, the platform is just outside the ticket office and it’s just a matter of hopping on the train and we’re away.

For those who aren’t so able bodied there’s a ramp that’s carefully laid out by the Iarnród Éireann attendants that makes it easy to get onto the train.

Alas, however, for those who aren’t so able bodied it’s not so easy if you have to cross to platform number two – in fact, it’s so hard that it’s a wonder that they don’t give up altogether and take a bus.

You see, they have to travel up a pedestrian walkway that is 20 or so steps up, then across and another 20 or so steps down.

Seeing is believing. On Friday afternoon, I witnessed two people making this journey – a short hop to 90 per cent of those who were getting the Galway train, but to those two people it must have been like a mini-marathon or longer.

One man was in his late thirties – he wasn’t disabled and could walk, but with great, great difficulty. What’s more he had a big holdall bag for company, which made climbing those steps all the more challenging.

He made it, but shouldn’t have been required to make the journey.

The other man was up on his eighties – he had no bag, but before beginning his ascent he took time out on the bench on platfrom number one, gathered his breath and then went for it.

He made it in time for the Galway train, but was so wrecked by the experience on reaching his destination that he had to sit down for himself at the end of the steps to draw some breath.

He shouldn’t have had to make this journey.

It’s called a duty of care. It’s a small thing, but it’s huge at the same time.

Yes the elderly get free travel, thanks to an innovative stroke of Charles J Haughey’s pen during his four-year stint as Minister for Finance between 1966 and ’69, but in 2013 the least that can be expected is that Iarnród Éireann take that duty of care on board.

It can be seen in the many train stations in Dublin – many of the new pedestrian walkways that have been build in recent years also have lifts. Of course, DART operators would justify that in terms of volume, while beyond the pale in old Ennis Iarnród Éireann would probably look at the volume of passengers that embark and disembark on platform two in Ennis and come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t justify the putting in of a lift.

But volume is not the point. Duty of care is the point. It has to be.

At present the old pedestrian walkway that straddles both platforms in Ennis is closed – it’s a work of art in many ways and a remnant of the old empire that laid the tracks from Limerick to Galway back in Queen Victoria’s time. To touch it by way of making it wheelchair accessible would be a crime in itself, so much so that there’s surely a preservation order placed on it by the Heritage Council, Clare County Council or some society for the preservation of old railways, if such a body exists.

But, just a few yards down the platform there’s no such heritage concerns where the new pedestrian walkway is concerned, but there’s no lift either.

Why should it be that the new walkway that was constructed in Thurles station and opened for traffic to replace the relic of old Victorian decency has lifts to accommodate wheelchairs and Ennis be left without one?

That’s a question for Iarnród Éireann. What’s good enough for Thurles and other stations should be good enough for Ennis!

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 with a degree in history and politics. After completing a Diploma in Journalism at The College of Commerce, Rathmines in 1991, he embarked on a career in journalism. Joe spent four years with Clare FM from 1992 and was with The Clare Champion from 1996 to 2005. He has won two McNamee Awards for GAA journalism and has published two books. Contact Joe on [email protected]

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