Drivers meet with gardai over racism claims

ETHNIC minority taxi drivers in Dundalk have met with local gardai to discuss their concerns about perceived racism in the community.

ETHNIC minority taxi drivers in Dundalk have met with local gardai to discuss their concerns about perceived racism in the community.

Victor Stephen, a spokesperson for ethnic minority taxi drivers in the town, told The Dundalk Democrat that their incomes are being negatively impacted by prejudice.

“Our incomes have dropped significantly in the past year. The recession is a factor, of course, but many of the customers that remain are choosing white drivers over us,” he said.

“We do have loyal customers and many members of the community support us. But unfortunately, some customers are not giving us a chance and are not getting in our cars.”

Mr Stephen is calling on members of the local community to “put aside their misconceptions” and use their services.

“We met with the Chief Superintendent last week and had a very positive and meaningful meeting. The gardai have promised to work with us on the issues raised at the meeting,” he said.

Some of the issues raised by the taxi drivers at the meeting included ways to tackle the perceived racism felt by them.

“We live and work here as law abiding citizens. We asked the gardai to help and advise us about how to react to racist incidents,” said Mr Stephen.

“We also explained that on a number of occasions we have experienced cases in which some passengers pretend to be gardai. They do this so they can threaten and intimidate drivers while at work.

“The gardai gave us some tips and techniques on how to handle these situations. They said they will do their best to promote integration.”

Mr Stephen said that the situation has “escalated” over the past year and now many ethnic minority taxi drivers are worried about their livlihoods.

“The majority of us, myself included, depend completely on driving a taxi to make a living. People have mortgages to pay and children to feed,” he said.

“We have a lot of obligations that need to be met. We understand that a lot of people in the community are having a tough time because of the economy. All we are asking is for customers to give us a chance.”