Republicans should not be excluded from driving taxis - Ellis

Sinn Fein TD refers to those convicted before Good Friday Agreement

Republicans convicted of offences before the Good Friday Agreement was put in place should not be excluded from driving a taxi, a Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis has suggested.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Republicans convicted of offences before the Good Friday Agreement was put in place should not be excluded from driving a taxi, a Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis has suggested.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Wed, Sep 25, 2013, 20:20

Republicans convicted of offences before the Good Friday Agreement was put in place should not be excluded from driving a taxi, Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis has suggested.

Mr Ellis said Republicans were being subject to background checks for “political reasons” despite the fact that the Irish people endorsed the Good Friday Agreement in a referendum.

He described it as “very wrong to equate somebody in serious crime with Republicans and people who are under the Good Friday Agreement. I don’t accept that you can make that comparison”.

Minister of State for Public Transport Alan Kelly said the Taxi Regulation Bill was not the proper piece of legislation to deal with the issue of who should or should not be excluded from having a taxi licence.

Mr Kelly said that was a matter for the courts to decide or the Convictions Act which is currently going through the houses of the Oireachtas.

“I’m not prepared to accept an amendment to this bill that would give special treatment to one category of convicts. If there are grounds for special treatment, then the courts can deal with it. It is simply not appropriate in this bill.”

An amendment to have Republicans who support the peace process excluded from the new bill was rejected by members of the Oireachtas Select sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport which has been analysing the proposed legislation.

Fine Gael TD Paudie Coffey criticised the proposals and he doubted if the “citizens of this country wished to be driven around by people with serious convictions”.

He also suggested that those with serious convictions could themselves be targets and that would put passengers at risk.

Fellow Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan said exempting Republicans would throw the “whole concept of Garda clearance up in the air”.

He said that when the Irish people endorsed the Good Friday Agreement they would not “want or intend that their vote be used to allow people who were convicted of the most serious of crimes to be awarded taxi licences”.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said it ought to be a “minimum requirement” for those seeking a taxi plate be vetted by the Garda vetting unit. He said there was evidence of a lot of criminals getting involved in the taxi industry and the National Transport Authority (NTA) ought to be monitoring them better.

Mr Kelly said the NTA already to the power to vet anybody they wanted, but they could not do it for everyone every year as they did not have the manpower to do so.