Government to amend O'Dea confidence vote


The Government is to table an amendment in the Dail to a Fine Gael motion of no confidence in the Minister of State for Education, Mr Willie O'Dea.

The Minister of State for the Environment, Mr Bobby Molloy, said the amendment would be discussed at tomorrow's Cabinet meeting before the Dail debate tomorrow night. Mr O'Dea had expressed opposition to the deregulation of taxis.

Mr Molloy, speaking on RTE radio's This Week programme, said both Government parties would be supporting the amendment.

Asked about Mr O'Dea's remarks, Mr Molloy said every individual in the Government was different. The Minister added that reports of his discussions with Mr O'Dea were "greatly exaggerated".

The Minister said Department officials and taxi-drivers' union representatives would meet tomorrow as planned but before the outcome of the High Court case taken by taxi drivers was known.

Mr Molloy said the date for the meeting was agreed on the assumption the judgment would have been delivered on Friday last. He was not sure in what context the discussions would now take place. But he stressed the Government was "very concerned to ensure that good regulations are in place so that there will be a good quality service being provided".

"The talks that we're having would deal with any special hardship cases the taxi-drivers' unions wish to bring up and also deal with arrangements for refunding of fees for excessive amounts charged by some local authorities in the past in the opinion of the court," Mr Molloy said.

"It will discuss capital depreciation for those who have paid large sums of money and can show that they have done so, and based on capital loss that they may be able to identify."

Asked about the phased introduction of new taxi licences, the Minister said the Government's legal advice was that "there is no useful quantitative restriction that could be imposed under new regulations without there being a very serious probability that it would immediately be challenged and be found invalid".

His plan to give one new licence to each person who had one was struck down by the courts, and the Government had no other option. Something had to be done quickly.

"It is very disappointing that the taximen have chosen to go on strike," he said. "I don't think it's going to help anybody's cause to withdraw their service. Most are self-employed and are striking against themselves.

"This is a consumer service issue and a competition issue and it would be wrong of me to give any indication that there is any likelihood on the part of the Government to change its policies in this regard," he said.