SF claim on taxi licence ban for criminals rejected

Wed, Feb 20, 2013, 00:00

Minister of State for Transport Alan Kelly has rejected claims by Sinn Féin that legislation preventing people with convictions for violent crime from holding a taxi licence is unconstitutional because it includes people involved in the Troubles.

Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis said the new taxi regulations, which are retrospective, could lead to the disqualification or suspension of drivers “who have convictions relating to the conflict between republicans and the British state on this island”.

He said “Sinn Féin has sought legal advice and we believe it is unconstitutional.”

Legal proofing

But Mr Kelly said anyone with a serious conviction should not be allowed to get a licence. “I do not care if they claim to be reformed after any serious conviction, a person cannot and should not have a licence to drive a taxi if he has a conviction for murder, terrorism or serious sexual crime.”

Mr Ellis had questioned the legal proofing of the Bill, which has been passed in the Seanad. He said drivers whose convictions were directly related to their involvement in the conflict in the North had been working for years as taxi drivers without any issue.

Their convictions from the conflict were recognised in a number of international agreements signed by the State, including the Belfast Agreement, he said. Retrospective legislation affecting those rights “would be disproportionate and repugnant to the Constitution,” he claimed.

Mr Kelly insisted, however, that the Bill was fair, balanced and proportionate. He said no amendments relating to the Belfast Agreement had been made in the Seanad, to his knowledge.

There was an appeals provision in the Taxi Regulation Bill for the courts to determine if there were mitigating circumstances that mandatory disqualification should not apply in a particular case. And he stood over the retrospective nature of the provisions.