Taxi protests come to an end

 

There was widespread disruption in Dublin this evening due to the taxi dispute which began this morning and then escalated.

Luas Red Line services were limited between Tallaght and Smithfield due to protests and many roads in the city are blocked.

Drivers finally ended their protest shortly before 10pm.

During rush hour, Pembroke Street, Fitzwilliam Square South and West were all blocked while O'Connell Street was closed due to traffic.

Northbound traffic had to be diverted onto Eden Quay while southbound traffic from Parnell Square was diverted via Marlborough Street and Gardiner Street. Buses that usually stop[ed on O'Connell Street northbound were forced to detour onto Parnell Square West with southbound buses stopping on Parnell Square East.

Taxi drivers across the country withdrew their services today in support of a sit-in by two members of the Irish Taxi Council (ITC) at the Commission of Taxi Regulation offices. The ITC is demanding  a cap on the number of taxi drivers in the industry.

A small group identifying themselves as ITC representatives forced entry to commission's office at Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, yesterday afternoon and refused to leave the lobby area. It is understood that up to seven taxi drivers were initially involved in the sit-in, but just two remained in the office today.

The High Court today ordered the protestors to stop occupying the regulator’s offices.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy granted an interim injunction restraining trespass on the Commission for Taxi Regulation’s offices by members of the ITC, including Thomas Barton and Patrick Walsh, who occupied the building last night. The judge also ordered no member of the ITC may go within 30 metres of the two entrances to the regulator’s offices, pending further order of the court.

The two men who remained inside the office ended their protest this evening.

A demonstration in support of the drivers was called in Dublin this morning with up to 500 drivers withdrawing their service at Dublin airport from 8am. Drivers in Cork, Waterford, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo and Donegal joined the protest and withdrew their service later in the day.

This afternoon, Frank Byrne of the ITC said the protesters were seeking full implementation of the 11-point-plan recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport that he said had been "ignored by the Minister for Transport".

President of the Irish Taxi Drivers’ Federation John Ussher, whose organisation was not involved in planning today's protest, said: "All the organisations have one thing in common. We all want what's best for taxi drivers. Where we differ is how we achieve what's best."

A spokesman for Mr  Dempsey said this afternoon that protests do not address the challenges faced by drivers and urged them to resume discussions with the taxi regulator, whom he said was mandated to regulate the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry.

“Those involved in the actions yesterday and which are continuing today are strongly urged to resume discussions with the Commission for Taxi Regulation in a sustained effort to address the issues of concern,” he said. “It is understood that the Commission for Taxi Regulation is having good and fruitful discussions with the other four groups representing taxi drivers. There is no reason why those involved in the current actions cannot have the same engagement.”

The spokesman accepted the industry, like all sectors of the economy, was facing severe challenges. “Taxi drivers are working in a competitive, challenging environment which has affected earning power,” he added. “The occupation of offices and other disruptive actions such as those at the airport, while attracting media attention, does nothing however to address the challenges which the industry is facing.”

Representatives of Siptu, the National Taxi Drivers' Union, the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation and the Taxi and Hackeny Drivers' Association are due to meet on Thursday, and it is expected that today's events will be discussed at that meeting.