A meeting of Athlone’s taxi drivers is to take place on Tuesday evening to discuss some of the drivers’ grievances, which came to a head last week with a protest in the town.
Speaking on behalf of the town’s taxi drivers, Derek Chambers said he hoped that following Monday’s town council meeting councillors would be able to report back to them with some progress on providing more ranks in the town. “We hope that councillors will have some answers for us regarding the ranks,” Mr Chambers told the Advertiser.
Last Friday afternoon, a large number of Athlone’s taxi drivers staged a protest, meeting at the Regional Sports Centre and driving through the town. The protest followed a night in which five taxi drivers were issued with on-the-spot fines of €250 each by the taxi regulator.
One of the drivers, David Moran, explained he was waiting outside the Palace Bar when three men got into his car and asked to be taken to Genesis nightclub. However, after he had accepted the fare he was asked to pull in, and the men identified themselves and handed him a fine for €250 for an ‘MB12’ violation, ie for picking up passengers from any area other than an appointed area.
As a result of the fines, taxi drivers took their cars off the streets for the rest of the night, a decision which Mr Chambers says was taken with some reluctance. “We did not want to take our cars off the streets. People were left walking everywhere but we were left with no option. There are up to 170 taxi drivers in Athlone, and at night time there are only eight spaces in Church Street.”
Cllr Paul Hogan, who was there to support the taxi drivers in Friday’s protest, said this week that in the current climate of fear in the town due to the recent attacks on women, every effort should be made to promote safety.
“ It doesn’t make sense that there are eight spaces operating for 160 taxis on any given night. There is no taxi rank on the west side of Athlone. The people on the west have been neglected in this regard. If you are socialising and living on the west side, you are not going to walk over to Church Street to get a taxi. This increases the risk of people walking alone,” said Cllr Hogan.
“In this dangerous climate we should be promoting safety, with taxis available outside pubs and nightclubs. Loading bays should also be used as ranks after 6pm. I would ask the taxi regulator to waive the fines issued to the taxi drivers and to show compassion for the people of Athlone. I would suggest that a deputation representing all taxi drivers in Athlone should meet with the taxi driver to discuss this issue further. I intend to raise this issue at next week’s council meeting,” he concluded.