We must avoid ‘taxi apartheid’, says human rights centre director

The deputy-director for the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Dr Vinodh Jaichand, has called on all players mentioned in a recent report investigating allegations of racism in the Galway taxi industry to act responsibly, to work to restore the human rights of all, and to avoid a type of “taxi apartheid”.

Following the official launch last week of the report: Galway Taxi Industry: Employment Opportunities, Patterns of Public Use, and User Perceptions, Dr Jaichand has described recent criticisms made by a number of representatives in the Galway taxi industry as an “attack” so that the message in the report is misunderstood.

In a letter received yesterday Dr Jaichand said: “The response from the Galway Taxi Association, does not represent all taxis in Galway, and Galway Taxis does not deal with the question of the existence of racism in the industry. Our survey of 297 people indicated an 11 per cent awareness of its existence. I am astounded at some taxi spokesman statement that they are unaware of this. This sounds like the proverbial need to ‘hear no evil, speak no evil, or see no evil’ even though the survey points to its existence”.

As revealed in last week’s issue of the Galway Advertiser the Galway Taxi Association (GTA ) slammed the report as being poorly presented, biased, and likely to cause a deeper “wedge” between Irish drivers and multi-cultural drivers. The GTA also “vehemently” refuted the findings of the report adding that “at no stage” was it contacted to participate in the research. This was echoed by Gerry Corbett, chairman of Galway Taxis, who in a letter said that “Galway Taxis was never investigated by anyone from the Irish Centre for Human Rights in relation to this report.” Mr Corbett also stated that Galway Taxis knew “absolutely nothing” about the research until they heard Dr Jaichand on Galway Bay FM on December 1.

In response to a section of Mr Corbett’s letter, which said: “...since their arrival African drivers are constantly associated with stories of them being treated badly and in a racist fashion by almost everyone”, Dr Jaichand asks: “So, ‘they’ are the cause?” He added: “The report indicates that 25 per cent of white taxi drivers joined the industry in the last five year period and notes that this coincided with the collapse of the construction industry. The report acknowleges that the recession and taxi deregulation has a role to play.”

Dr Jaichand further said that the “research was never intended to be a survey on the taxi industry per se but serves as in indicator of racism in the Galway taxi industry. Other players in the report include the National University of Ireland, Galway, the Commission for Taxi Regulation, the Galway City Council, the Galway Chamber of Commerce, and calls are made to them to act to restore the human rights to all... So let us act responsibly before there is a call for separate ranks for Afrian drivers resulting in ‘taxi apartheid’. Most of all, let us not say we were not aware of human rights abuses on our doorsteps.”

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