Taxis accused over `cosy cartels'


`Taxi drivers involved in riots in Dublin on Tuesday did little to foster public concern, or sympathy for their cause," said the editorial of the Donegal Democrat.

It accused taxi-drivers, particularly in Dublin, of having a "cosy cartel for years" where they "made big money and kept the competition out".

The editorial of the Munster Express said there was no going back on the High Court decision to deregulate the taxi industry. However, it said, regulation should exist in the area of standards. "Money and the ability to raise the required modest sum of £5,000 should not be the only criteria for a taxi plate."

It said the character of the taxi-driver should be "a big issue" and that criteria for judging applicants should take into account whether they had been guilty of assault or crimes against the person. "An intending taxi person should be of good character; a reference from a peace commissioner or Garda station might be the route here."

It also predicted that the ability of local authorities to provide sufficient parking bays for taxis will become an issue in the near future.

Also in the Munster Express, Fianna Fail TD Mr Brendan Kenneally is reported as saying Waterford taxi-drivers would see their asset wiped out because of the taxi shortage in Dublin. "For many of them, the value of their taxi plate amounted to their pension and life savings." He is also quoted as saying there is "no comparison" between the profits that can be made by taxi operators in Dublin and in cities such as Waterford.

The Westmeath Independent quoted the chairman of the Athlone Taxi Divers' Association as saying they are "outraged with Mr Molloy's decision to deregulate the taxi industry. It has been proven in other countries that deregulation does not work." He said the town would not be able to cope with a "flood of taxis" and "it will mean an end of the taxi business for a lot of taxi-drivers in Athlone". The paper reported however that disruption and inconvenience as a result of the drivers' protest had been kept to a minimum.

The Longford Leader said Co Longford taxi-drivers, along with other rural taxi-drivers, "want no change in the country, whatever happens in Dublin, as they believe that deregulation plans could cost them their livelihood".

Trouble is also brewing for Portlaoise taxis, according to the Leinster Express. It reported one taxi-driver as saying that over half the drivers in Portlaoise will "be out of business by this time next year" and that the town is already "well catered for" by taxis.

The Meath Chronicle reported a mixed local reaction to the news that the first refugees could be arriving at the Mosney Holiday Centre "within a week" following a £15 million deal between the Government and the owner, Mr Phelim McCloskey.

The paper said there were concerns about the effects of a "year-round accommodation centre" on the rural community and its consequences for tourism. The paper quoted one local woman as saying: "They are going to put 500 foreign people in there but very few local people can get planning permission to build a house here." However, local councillor Mr Tom Kelly is reported to have said that Mosney had been finding it difficult to compete with "sun holidays" in recent years and is quoted as saying: "It had run its course as a tourist attraction."

The Chronicle said the Irish Refugee Council described the centre as totally inappropriate and felt it was part of a move towards detaining refugees. The paper said the Community Games organisers had greeted the news with "dismay", claiming the loss of the facility put the future of the organisation in doubt.

The plight of the Community Games was also highlighted in the Bray People. The paper said Wicklow Community Games organisers had "blasted" the Government's plans to house asylum-seekers at Mosney, the headquarters of the games' annual national finals. Organisers were said to be "horrified" by the news. The paper reported the Wicklow president of the games, Ms Lilly Kavanagh, as saying that although they had nothing against refugees, it was more important than ever to encourage children to participate in sport, to "keep them off the streets".

Community Games concern is also detailed in the Donegal Democrat. The Donegal chairman of the games, Mr Gerry Davenport, is reported as saying there is no other suitable place to run the games and so "we may have to go outside the country to run it properly".

The Garda Christmas campaign against drink-driving received strong coverage in many papers including the Offaly Independent, the Wicklow People, the Kerryman and the Limerick Leader.

The Leader described the campaign as a "big Xmas booze blitz". Gardai, it said, had warned motorists to "expect little sympathy" if stopped for drink-driving. The paper spoke to a Garda inspector who told of new ways of detecting drink-drivers, including the "alkaliser" which can be used by gardai without the assistance of a doctor.