East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan has called for assurances that free bus passes for pensioners will not become means-tested.
It comes after the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament voiced its opposition to such a move, as part of its draft election manifesto.
Sinn Fein representative Mr McMullan said bus passes are a “lifeline” for older people , particularly those in rural areas.
He added: “The introduction of the free pass enabled many pensioners, especially those on low incomes to participate more in society and any attempt to remove it needs to be opposed.”
Mr McMullan also called on the DUP’s Michelle McIlveen to return to her post as Regional Development Minister, having resigned from the post almost immediately after her appointment last week.
Her resignation was in line with the DUP’s policy of disrupting Assembly business during the current political crisis at Stormont.
“Michelle McIlveen needs to take up her post as Minister and assure the public that bus passes will remain in place and no attempt will be made to erode the access to public transport of our elderly population,” Mr McMullan added.
Michael Monaghan, chair of NI Pensioners Parliament, said: “It seems only right that protecting the bus pass will be the first demand to appear in our manifesto, because it’s undoubtedly one of the most cherished benefits received by older people in Northern Ireland.
“Free travel allows the older population to have a more active and healthy lifestyle, but ensures it isn’t a financial burden. It also means older people are able to spend their money in more places, which clearly is of benefit to the local economy.
“Finally, the Smartpass scheme provides stability for the public transport system; without it, bus and rail services for everyone would suffer.”
“In recent years, some have suggested means-testing the Smartpass or withdrawing it from certain age groups.
“These people fail to recognise the true value of the Smartpass.”