Westmeath taxi drivers are in talks about putting forward candidates in the upcoming local elections.
They say they will definitely have at least one candidate for Mullingar Town Council and are confident that their candidate will win a seat with 300 taxi drivers, family, friends, and taxi-users to support them.
John Doyle is chairman of Mullingar Taxi Association and sub-chairman of the BMW (Border, Midland, and West ) Taxi Association. He says taxi drivers in Mullingar are not satisfied that their voices are being heard. Their main local issue is with traders, and the taxi men haven’t been successful in getting meetings with them.
Taxi drivers in the town are look for temporary night-time ranks, which won’t interfere with the tradespeople, from 8pm to 5am on weekend nights and they are angry that a small number of traders are unwilling to co-operate.
Mullingar Taxi Association met on Tuesday evening and the mood there was “heated but not argumentative”.
“They are angered that they are out there working 16 and 18 hour shifts for €60 or €70 per shift during the week which is well below the minimum wage,” said a representative.
There are over 300 taxis in Mullingar with only 17 taxi spaces allocated to them.
“I’ve been arguing for the last year and a half to get a meeting with councils and eventually succeeded in meeting George Lambden who agreed with the idea of temporary ranks for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. But this hasn’t happened yet,” he added.
“The Gardaí have agreed with this, the council have agreed with it, and the only ones who have a grievance are the traders. Meanwhile on Saturday nights, taxi drivers are getting €60 fines for double parking.
“About €60 wages when you’re out working for 16 or 18 hours is not very nice compared to your €150 weekend shift. That’s your wages night. That’s why there are so many taxis out there.”
A BMW meeting took place in Athlone on Sunday afternoon to arrange a march in Tullamore on February 25 involving hundreds if not thousands of taxi-drivers from all over the country.
Taxi drivers want to see a cap on the number of licences issued nationally because there are too many taxis and not enough income. The only business people seem to be coming into is the taxi business, says the taxi man.
“When people are going in to sign on they are given an option of a €1,000 grant to start up a taxi and a four year back-to-work allowance.”
John Doyle says drivers are frustrated that there are far too many licences in circulation. “The taxi industry is just a farce.
“Kathleen Doyle, the regulator says she has no authority on capping licenses but Minister Noel Dempsey says it’s her responsibility. She’s not listening to taxi drivers. It’s between the two of them and we’re not getting any satisfaction from either of them.”
Taxi drivers are also running a day trip to the zoo and McDonalds for underprivileged kids on April 1. All costs will be borne by the taxi-drivers.