Representative organisations have called for stricter sentencing for assaults on taxi drivers following a series of violent attacks in the last few months.
Among the attacks in July, was one on a driver who took two people to Ranelagh and had a bottle smashed over his head before being punched, kicked and bitten.
Also last month, a driver hailed by two men on O’Connell Street was asked to drive to Parnell Street where a knife was held to his throat while a shop was being robbed. He was then dumped from the car, which was later found burnt out.
Another driver was assaulted recently by two male passengers and had his car hijacked at the Oliver Bond flats in Dublin.
And a taxi driver at the Sherriff Street rank was attacked by two men who were joined by a large number of youths. The driver and another man, who tried to intervene, were hospitalised and two taxis were badly damaged.
In May, a teenager in Terenure, Dublin held a meat cleaver to a taxi driver’s throat and hijacked his car. The same month a taxi driver who picked up two men in their 20s in Castleknock was held at knife point and had his car hijacked by the men.
Spike in attacks
There are no statistics collected on the number of taxi drivers who are assaulted, according to An
, but the chairman of representative body Tiománaí Tacsaí na hÉireann believes there has been a spike in attacks over the last few months.
David McGuinness said harsher sentencing and a change in society’s attitude toward taxi drivers is needed. He said the judiciary seem to treat attacks on taxi drivers in a less severe way than attacks on other workers.
Recently, after a taxi man was viciously assaulted in Tallaght, the perpetrators, who were students, were not given a criminal record and received the Probation Act, he said. The taxi driver was in hospital for two weeks.
“That sends out the message that it’s okay to do it, that there is no punishment for attacking a taxi driver late at night,” Mr McGuinness said.
And passengers prosecuted for fare jumping, often with the excuse of having had a few drinks, are told to put a few euro in the court poor box.
He believes if the severity of punishments was increased for the minor incidents of not paying a fare then “the middle-class person with a few drinks on him would start to think twice”.
“It would send out a signal that attacking a taxi driver isn’t the thing you do on a Saturday night.”
He also said he believed the attitude of society toward taxi drivers was contributing to the casual violence against them.
“I’ve read articles in papers about taxi drivers about how we smell, our cars are filthy, we talk too much about everything. If they were written about any other section of society the Equality Act would be used against them.”
Lesser type of worker
It contributes to an environment that taxi drivers are a lesser type of worker, he said.
The taxi industry provides a vital service, but there isn’t that respect given to the job and that is from the top down.”
John Usher, president of the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation, said there is an attack against a taxi driver at least every week and the level of violence has escalated.
“All any driver wants to do is go to work earn a day’s wages and return home safe to his family and if anything prevents him from doing that it should be dealt with severely by the courts,” he said.