Taxi drivers consider leaving the industry over threats to their safety

Taxi drivers consider leaving the industry over threats to their safety
Cork taxi driver Bobby Lynch.Photo courtesy of TV3.

An increase in violence against Cork taxi drivers has left some feeling unsafe and wanting to get out of the industry.

Cork Taxi Council spokesperson Bobby Lynch has said that many taxi drivers in the city don't feel safe doing their jobs anymore, especially at night.

"There is an increase in violence and anti-social behaviour against taxi drivers over the past two years," Bobby told The Echo. "Years ago there was just drink involved, but now drugs play a part too. Weekends are when we get trouble. We don't feel safe.

"Especially once a driver gets to his 60s, he's dealt with incidents down the years. They get to a stage where they can't do it anymore. There are men in their 70s and 80s driving with us because they can't afford to retire."

Bobby says the "lack of Garda presence" in Cork is part of the problem. 

"There's a big shortage of Guards," he said. "There are no patrols on the streets late at night. 

"Even when tourists get into a taxi, they say to the drivers 'there's no police'."

The worst times for incidents are around 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, according to Bobby. He says a lot of taxi drivers have to work at this time because the fares are higher at night. 

"It's to make ends meet," he said. "That's when the crowds are released out into the city. They just hope the [troublemakers] will get into a taxi and we will get them off the street and home."

Bobby mentions that there has been a spate of violent attacks on taxi drivers in Cork in recent years. 

"Drivers have gotten bad beatings and nothing's really been done about it."

He also mentioned that female taxi drivers experience the threat of sexual violence. 

"The majority of taxi drivers are men, but we have a few women who are very good at their job. Recently a woman rang the Neil Prendeville Show to say she had been sexually harassed and assaulted by male passengers a number of years ago.

"People think we are 'only' taxi drivers. We are treated as very low down on the ladder. We are made to feel like we are nothing.

"All we want is for passengers and drivers to get home safe. Lots of drivers don't even report incidents because they think what's the point? Nothing will happen.

"You'd wonder where the taxi license fee is going because it's not going back into taxis to improve safety. We were told we would get CCTV at every taxi rank, that hasn't happened."

Bobby also criticised the government.

"None of the Ministers for Transport have done anything," he said. "I met with Shane Ross and he said he would do something. No one in a position of power seems to care."

Bobby would encourage everyone to "just behave" when using a taxi service. 

"People think they own us when they get into the car," he said. "When you have older taxi drivers coming to you in tears after they've gotten a beating, something has to change."

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