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Taxi-drivers are harassing newcomers - gardai

By Judith Crosbie

GardaÍ have received anonymous complaints that taxidrivers with new licence plates are being intimidated by more established taxi-drivers.

Sgt David Coughlan of the Carriage Office, which assesses cars for taxi eligibility, said they had received three or four calls from people who said they had been intimidated or harassed. A garda said over the weekend he saw taxi-drivers being "slagged" who had received new licence plates after last month's deregulation. "They were slagging, beeping the horns and giving the fingers," he said.

New licence holders can be identified by the number which appears on the roof of the taxi. Dublin Corporation has issued 50 new licence plates from up to 1,400 applications.

Without formal complaints the gardaí said they could not make any prosecutions. "Unless they are prepared to give their names and addresses we can't take it any further," Sgt Coughlan said.

As a result the calls were being taken as "rumours", but Sgt Coughlan said the gardaí were making their own inquiries.

"People are getting into the business and they don't want to make enemies . . . they would have to stand up in court and identify the person," he said.

But taxi-drivers' unions said they had not received any complaints about intimidation.

"We had these sort of scurrilous remarks about meter fitters some weeks back and none of them were substantiated," Mr Gerry Brennan of SIPTU's taxi driver branch said.

He said many people with new plates were known to existing drivers as they had rented taxi plates up to now. "They are friends, they sit together on ranks, they have coffee together up at the airport," he added.

Mr Vincent Kearns of the National Taxi Drivers' Union said he heard only rumours about intimidation. He said drivers with new licence plates might be in the NTDU and so intimidation among members would be unlikely.

"Nobody in my union will intimidate another member in the union. We just wouldn't tolerate it," he said.

Mr John Ussher of the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation said he had not heard of any intimidation. "We certainly don't want anyone intimidated and we certainly hope it doesn't happen," he said.

By the end of next week, Dublin Corporation expected to issue between 150 and 200 new taxi licence plates, Mr Owen Keegan, director of traffic, said. About half of the new licence plate owners were either hackney drivers or taxi-drivers who had rented licence plates, he said. The others were new entrants to the market.

Mr John Ussher of the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation has not heard of any intimidation


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