Taxi drivers boycott Travellers

TAXI drivers in Waterford are refusing to bring Travellers to their halting sites following a series of assaults.

While no blanket boycott has been imposed, drivers are refusing to drive Travellers to certain parts of the county following three serious attacks in recent weeks.

The most recent attack involved a knife. Now drivers say they fear for their safety and are not bringing fares into or out of Kilbarry and Bilberry.

Noel McLaurence of the National Taxi Drivers’ Union said buses have already abandoned routes to the Ballybeg area because of stone throwing leaving taxi drivers with no option but to follow suit.

“One of our drivers was assaulted last weekend. He’s still off work. A fella pulled a knife on him and tried to rob him. It’s the third such assault and we have no option but to refuse to bring people to these sites.

“We have no problem with the school runs and will continue to do them. But we just can’t go in there at night time. I can’t see a compromise until the Travellers themselves come up with a solution and call in whoever is responsible,” Mr McLaurence said.

A Traveller group said a blanket ban on accepting Traveller fares could be contrary to the Equal Status Act. Thomas Erbsloh of the Waterford Community Development Project said any blanket ban would be unfair.

“Any alleged assault of a taxi driver cannot be condoned and we cannot make any excuse for it. But a blanket ban would raise concerns for us, particularly under the Equal Status Act. `

"The service provider would have to make a prima facie case for not bringing the fare. We would urge compromise, rather than enforcing a ban,” he said.

Taxi drivers were due to discuss the matter on Tuesday night but the meeting was adjourned to a later date when it emerged there was further dissent over a planned new rank in the city, according to Mr McLaurence.

Drivers had agreed to move from Broad St to Michael St and were to be given the same amount of space. But it has emerged that the rank on Michael St will be front-facing and a street which they had believed would be confined to taxis and buses will now be one-way for all traffic.

Drivers also want to meet with various city officials who are planning shuttle bus services home from nightclubs over Christmas as part of a new safety initiative.

“The first we heard of this plan to bring people home was on radio ten minutes ago. We were not invited to the launch and had no part in the initiative.

“I don’t know how they are going to police it. It’s going to be organised chaos. If we can’t manage to get three people into a taxi safely in that part of the city on a weekend night, what hope has a bus driver of managing 30 or 40 people.”

Nightclub owner Bob Tweedy said various aspects of the shuttle bus service still need to be worked out, but added he was confident the initiative will work well.

It is anticipated punters would be able to buy their tickets inside the establishment and that they would be brought home safely from directly outside the nightclub.

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