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New blitz on airport if taxi row deepens 

STRIKING taxi drivers' hopes of a Government U-turn on deregulation were dashed yesterday by junior minister Bobby Molloy as the crisis moves into its second week.

And with no immediate resolution in sight the next flashpoint could be at Dublin Airport if the airport authority, Aer Rianta, changes it by-laws to allow hackney drivers pick up and drop customers at the terminal, currently restricted to taxis.

The Aer Rianta board will hold an emergency meeting this morning to discuss the by-law but a spokesman said last night no immediate decision was expected.

Aer Rianta has been under intense pressure for a taxi service from the travelling public who are forced to rely on public or private buses and cars for transport.

Last night Tommy Gorman of the National Taxi Drivers Union (NTDU) - one of three drivers unions on strike - warned if a hackney was seen operating at the airport "the temperature could get so high we could not control it".

In the first days of the strike drivers blockaded the airport causing widespread chaos and sparking angry reaction from the public who were forced to walk hundreds of yards with their luggage to get to and from the main terminal building.

Another potential area for trouble would be the appearance on the streets, possibly within days, of the new taxi plates.

Mr Gorman said this would also spark off a rise of emotions among the drivers.

"If the drivers were back to work it would be serious enough but if they are still out it could be much worse," he told the Irish Independent.

The striking drivers believe there could be 60 to 100 new taxis on the streets by next weekend. 

So far more than 600 people have paid 5,000 each for new licences to Dublin Corporation. But there have only been 50 applications for the 100 wheelchair-accessible taxis.

Almost 100 new taxis have already had new meters installed, passed and sealed and could be operating within hours of receiving their licences from the local authority.

Last night the striking drivers were hoping the High Court would put "something in place that will halt the number of new plates coming on the streets".

The NTDU and the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation (ITDF) had their application for a judicial review of the deregulation order adjourned on Friday until tomorrow when they hope for a positive outcome.

Later in the day the drivers' representatives will hold their second round of talks with the minister and his departmental officials.

But hopes of breakthrough on the issue of deregulation were not boosted yesterday in an RTE interview with the minister.

He said: "It would be wrong to indicate there was any likelihood that the Government would change its policy."

Tomorrow's talks would focus on any hardship cases the driver unions brought up as well as arranging refunds for individuals who paid over the odds to local authorities for their plates.

Mr Molloy added: "We will also discuss capital depreciation for those who can prove they paid large sums of money for their plates."

By FRANK KHAN

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