Aer Rianta warned by Garda over hackneys at airport

 

Aer Rianta has been strongly advised by the i Garda not to proceed with proposals to implement a by-law enabling hackney drivers to operate at Dublin Airport.

The taxi unions yesterday warned the move could inflame the taxi dispute over deregulation of the industry and lead to further blockades at the airport.

It is understood gardai have urged Aer Rianta to await the outcome of a taxi unions' hearing requesting leave for a judicial review of the Government decision to deregulate. This continues in the High Court tomorrow and talks between the unions and Government officials will also resume tomorrow.

According to senior Garda sources, Aer Rianta will be asked to consider laying on telephone facilities to enable passengers to phone for a hackney cab if they wish. The legality of allowing hackneys to operate in the area was also being examined. However, the source added the force was prepared to take whatever action was necessary to prevent scenes like those witnessed recently at the airport.

The board of Aer Rianta will today hold an emergency meeting to discuss the possibility of enacting a by-law that would provide passengers arriving at Dublin Airport with a cab service. Mr Noel Hannon, chairman of Aer Rianta, announced at the weekend the meeting would be held to examine the option.

The vice-president of the National Taxi Drivers' Union, Mr Vincent Kearns, said yesterday the proposals could lead to a renewed threat of blockades at the airport. It was illegal for a hackney to operate from a public taxi-metre area. "The recent situation at the airport was volatile and heated and beyond the control of any of the representative groups."

Last night, Mr John Ussher, president of the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation, said the union's leaders hoped to meet with management at the airport this morning. "We've always had a good working relationship with the airport and we hope to have a meeting before the board meets."

On November 22nd, taxi drivers used their vehicles to block the main approach road to the airport and entrance to the short-term car-park in a protest which continued into the following day. Passengers were forced to walk some distance to and from the terminal buildings.

A spokesman for Aer Rianta said the nine-strong board was meeting to consider options and a decision had not been taken. "It is premature to anticipate discussions with the Garda until the board has made a decision," he said.

Mr Christopher Humphrey, secretary of the National Hackney Drivers' Association, said the group was very pleased with the chairman's suggestion. Hackneys already provided the only cab service at Shannon Airport, which was co-ordinated by a desk inside the airport.

"It is illegal to ply for hire but it is not illegal if Aer Rianta contract it out to hackneys," he said. "We would like to sit down with them to discuss arrangements."

Mr Kearns said hackney drivers who worked the airport could not expect a "hearty welcome" from taxi-drivers. However, he stressed the unions did not condone intimidation.

He said the unions intended to ask the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, to appoint an independent mediator to chair round-table discussions. He said Mr Phil Flynn, a director of the ICC bank and formerly of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, would be acceptable.