Behind the News: Eoin Candon, taxi driver
As the Government asks cab drivers about their personal safety, one speaks about the hazards of working in Dublin
Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Eoin Candon says he is very concerned about the safety of taxi drivers. “It’s only become a big issue now because of the recent carjacking” – including the taxi stolen and crashed last weekend – “but taxi drivers are intimidated and robbed on a daily basis,” he says.
Candon works from the Eden Quay taxi rank in the middle of Dublin during the week and around the city on Friday and Saturday nights. “I’ve witnessed fights, stabbing, attacks on people near the rank. Another driver on my rank had a knife pulled on him recently,” says Candon. “You regularly see people urinating and defecating, taking drugs and even having sex in the lane nearby.”
The things Candon sees used to shock him, but he has grown immune to it. He says that he has been scared on four occasions but that, thankfully, nothing has happened. “In one incident I pretended I had a weapon, and the guy left. I’m 10 years working as a taxi driver” – he used to be a chef – “and my partner is always concerned when I go out at night.” Taxi drivers are forbidden from carrying batons, pepper spray or other weapons in their vehicles.
Candon says he mainly sticks to Hailo at night – customers call taxis using the Hailo smartphone app, which records the driver’s details and the time he or she picks up the customer. “I get a lot of girls using the Hailo app. It’s a good system.”
In advance of the public consultation process on the safety of taxi drivers that Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport Alan Kelly announced this week, what does Candon think the options are?
“The partitions between the driver and passengers won’t work in Dublin taxis, because most of them are saloon cars. I know they are fitted in the London black cabs, but I still wonder how many of these drivers have been attacked.”
Another issue with partitions is the cost. “We have 20 per cent more taxi drivers than we need on the streets of Dublin, so it’s cut-throat for fares. Most taxi drivers couldn’t afford to change their car to have a partition put in.”
One of Kelly’s suggestions is wider use of in-car security cameras and location alert systems. “I know some taxi drivers who have signs saying they have security cameras installed, and it hasn’t stopped bad behaviour,” says Candon, who is on the committee of the National Irish Taxi Association. “Mr Kelly talks about these schemes, but all of the costs are passed on to the drivers. We’re private operators when it suits and part of the public-transport system when it suits.”
But Candon accepts that location-alert systems would work if the Garda was able to respond quickly to calls. “I was nearly robbed dropping passengers off at a halting site a few years ago. I was definitely at risk, but then a Garda car had followed me in, and he paid his fare and got out of the car fast.”