Black taxi drivers in Galway voice concerns over racism
Some clients walk past cabs with black drivers and get into taxis driven by whites
Taxi driver Charles Ikenna Igbokwe at Eyre Square in Galway city. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Taxi drivers’ fears about racism were aired at a public meeting in Galway organised as part of Social Inclusion Week. File photograph: Alan Betson
Black taxi drivers have expressed concern about people deliberately walking past their vehicles at ranks in Galway city, and getting into taxis with a white person behind the wheel.
“I have the same car, pay the same tax, and the same insurance as the other guy. Ireland is my home and I pay my taxes. Yet, just because I have a different colour of skin, some people don’t want to use my car. It is a big problem in the community.”
“I have heard people say, ‘Oh, you’re black, fuck off’ after opening the door of my cab. It’s hard to live up to the motto that the customer is always right in a situation like that.”
Mr Sommaria also said he was incredulous recently when a garda arrived on the scene after a customer broke his windscreen. He had called the gardaí, but the garda was more interested in talking to the person who had committed the offence.
Charles Ikenna Igbokwe, a Nigerian barrister who works as a cab driver in Galway, does not believe the vast majority of Irish people are racist.
“The issue of racism is worldwide,” he said. “Some people clench when they see a black man. They believe the media or the film industry when black men are being portrayed in a bad light. I don’t want to call it racism.
“It’s more implicit bias, judging somebody without knowing his character or giving him a chance. Some people are ignorant because of things they have been told.”
He said it saddened him to experience racism at work in Galway because Irish people had experienced the same sort of hostility when they encountered ‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ signs in the UK in the past.
“When people walk past us on the rank, when we are judged implicitly just because of the colour of our skin, it hurts. How can we be accepted if we are not given a chance? We need to be given a chance to show the potential in us. We can offer so much to Ireland.”
Their fears about racism in the industry were aired at a public meeting in the city organised as part of Social Inclusion Week. The meeting was attended by up to 60 people, several of them black taxi drivers.
Some drivers also alleged that drunk customers were more likely to run away without paying for a fare because they believed African drivers were less likely than their Irish counterparts to complain to the authorities.
A spokesman for the National Transport Authority, who travelled from Dublin for the event last week, said that the concerns of the African drivers in Galway would be taken on board by the taxi regulator.
He said that issues relating to the “skipping” of black taxi drivers on the city’s ranks should be taken up with the local authority.
Joe Loughnane of Galway Anti Racism Network (Garn), who organised the meeting, said he believed only one taxi firm in the city hired black drivers.
He added that Ireland needed some form of hate-crime legislation, as gardaí were not obliged to record incidents of racism.
“It’s hard to believe that, in the year 2016, customers can walk past five or six drivers before hopping into a car with the first white driver they see on the rank,” he said.
“The Galway Anti Racism Network intends to work with African taxi drivers in Galway to submit a report on their findings to the National Transport Authority, the Galway City Council, and An Garda Síochána. ”