Dissent on the ranks
Faced with a ‘closed shop’ at some Dublin taxi ranks, many foreign-national drivers view exclusionary behaviour as racism
LAST YEAR I spent a shift in a taxi with a taximan and wrote about it for this newspaper. Over 12 gruelling hours on a Saturday night, he made just over €140 and good-humouredly put up with all sorts of anarchic, drunken behaviour from passengers.
That night there was an undercurrent of racism from some customers (one woman skipped three non-Irish drivers to get into our car) and some taximen. Subsequently, there have been scandals involving taxis with green lights, supposedly indicating Irishness (these have vanished), and ongoing rumours of racially segregated ranks. Anecdotally, the most regular culprit is the rank on O’Connell Street, Dublin, which is reputed to have a closed shop of regulars and is, in my recent experience, regularly host to shouting matches and horn-beeping aggression between drivers.
Eighteen months ago, concern about public-order issues on some Dublin ranks prompted Garda moves to address the problem; specifically, according to some taximen, the rank across from the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street. “We do have the power to ensure a taxi rank is run in a competent manner,” a Garda spokesman said this week.
“There was an unsavoury element controlling that rank for a time,” says Jerry Brennan, the taxi branch organiser of Siptu. “The Garda did pay particular attention to that rank and the unsavoury behaviour was sorted out.”
David Franzoni, a committee member of new representative body Tiománaí Tacsaí na hÉireann, who I meet on the Gresham rank, says, “myself and a number of other drivers had meetings with gardaí to resolve a few issues around how this rank was run. The gardaí told me they’ve had no issues since.”
Franzoni stresses the issues were not about race. He lists several non-Irish colleagues who work there. They recently had a whip-around to send a Turkish colleague home for his father’s funeral, and another to help an Egyptian driver to visit his sick mother.
“I’ll admit that this is a strict rank,” says another driver, Joe. “Some might see it as a closed shop because if there’s anything wrong with your documentation, you’ll be asked off the rank. But a lot of problems are simply a result of people not queuing properly.”
Others, however, maintain that some at the Gresham rank, and to a lesser extent the ranks adjoining O’Connell Street, practise exclusionary behaviour. “The system there is designed to keep people out,” says John from Sierra Leone, who is on the rank at St Stephen’s Green. “In O’Connell Street they’ve a system where the queue is not serial and they do that to keep people out. When you go there you might queue up but the guy you’re queuing behind, he’s not necessarily the guy you’re after. When you ask who you’re after in the queue they don’t tell you and it can get very aggressive.”