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Taxis set for return to work tonight 
By MARESE McDONAGH 


TAXI drivers last night voted to return to work just in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas trade. 

But after 16 days without taxis, the public cannot expect a full service in the short-term. 

One union is insisting it is still on strike and a significant minority of those who voted last night were clearly angry at the outcome. 

Last night's vote of 65pc-35pc in favour of a return to work at 7pm today was welcomed by traders and small businesses. 

The vote came at the end of a day which saw talks continuing with Department of Environment officials and a positive High Court outcome for drivers seeking to challenge Minister Bobby Molloy's regulations. 

When the votes of 2,000 members of the National Taxi Drivers' Union (NTDU) and the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation were counted at the Erins Isle GAA club in Finglas last night there were shouts of "sellout" and "treachery" from those who opposed a return to work. 

And contrary to reports that members of SIPTU's taxi drivers' branch would be voting today, a union official insisted last night that nothing had changed since the decisive 4-1 vote in favour of staying out last weekend. 

Tommy Gorman, general secretary of the NTDU, described the talks so far as "very positive". 

While accepting there had been a lot of anger among members who wanted to continue the strike, he predicted most drivers would be back at work this evening. They had made their point, he said, and would accept the democratic wish of the membership. 

"There is no point in the suffering continuing for the general public or our members," he said. 

He pointed out that the vote was to suspend the action pending the outcome of talks with the minister and his officials. 

These talks will resume this evening. 

He said that with a 2-1 vote in favour of returning to work by two unions, he believed the SIPTU decision would cause confusion. "It seems their officials have to go back to their superiors every time they make a decision and that has been causing confusion." 

Daniel Hickey, spokesman for the small firms association ISME, said he hoped things would now get back to normal. 

A spokesman for Mr Molloy said the deregulation measures would continue unchecked after yesterday's High Court. 

"We will defend the State's position very vigorously when it comes to judicial review," he said. 

At yesterday's meeting between the taxi unions and civil servants from the Department of the Environment, the issues of compensation, fare increases and wheelchair accessible vehicles were discussed.

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