Taxi Council gives notice of all-out national protest

 

THE IRISH Taxi Council (ITC) has given Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey seven days notice for an all-out national protest which it says will last indefinitely.

The decision was taken following a two-hour meeting of almost 700 taxi drivers at the National Show Centre in Swords, north Dublin yesterday.

The ITC, which says it is made up of 27 separate associations, is now to decide whether to commence the protest on St Patrick’s Day or on Thursday, March 18th.

Council president Frank Byrne said his members would protest for as long as it took to achieve their demands, including new legislation which would put a three-year moratorium on the issuing of taxi licences.

The ITC which was established last July, is also calling for additional taxi ranks in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway as well as Waterford and wants insurance certificates to be checked in real time in order to expose fraudulent certificates.

The council is also calling for a new system to be put in place that legally obliges applicants to undergo tests equal to or exceeding the standard required to obtain an Irish driving licence.

Other demands include proficiency in the Irish and/or English language, a relinquishing of taxi plates via the office of the regulator and a ban on renting and leasing plates where the replacement of a car does not take place.

The ITC says it has in excess of 15,000 members across the State, all of which are full-time drivers. The council said it would now engage with other taxi unions about its protest.

Mr Byrne said the nature of the protest would be aimed primarily at Mr Dempsey. “We’re not interested in dealing with the regulator. If the Minister is not interested in dealing with us, then the Taoiseach should intervene.

“If the Taoiseach doesn’t intervene, then we’ve got a problem.”

Earlier this week taxi drivers in Cork, Waterford, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo and Donegal also withdrew services in support of a sit-in by two members of the ITC at the office of the Commission of Taxi Regulation in Dublin.

The regulator brought proceedings against the ITC over the sit-in and secured an injunction on Tuesday against those involved.

When the case was returned before Ms Justice Mary Laffoy yesterday, Mr Byrne gave an undertaking they would not engage in any further trespass at, or picket the commission’s offices at Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square.

He said the ITC intended to resist allegations made in the case but wanted to get legal advice.

He asked for legal aid for the ITC, a voluntary body, but was told by the judge this was not a matter for the High Court.

Mr Byrne then asked for four weeks to consult a solicitor because the proceedings had “come rather fast so we need time to consider”. The judge ordered he provide replying affidavits by April 1st, and adjourned the matter to April 14th.

Earlier, two members of the ITC, Patrick Walsh and Thomas Barton, who staged a sit-in at the regulator’s offices, undertook not to return to the building which they left on Tuesday evening.