Friday 20 April 2018

Major setback for Uber in Ireland as lobbying efforts for tech firm's expansion hit roadblock

Kieran Harte believes the main challenge to Uber in Ireland is that services here have been constrained to entirely working with taxis. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Kieran Harte believes the main challenge to Uber in Ireland is that services here have been constrained to entirely working with taxis. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Uber's operations in Ireland have faced a major setback as the National Transport Authority has said it is unsupportive of the firm's intention to expand here.

Our transport regulations have meant that, for the last three years since Uber began operations in Ireland has been blocked from rolling out the very aspect of its product that had ensured the app's global success, facilitating paid journeys in private cars.

The NTA has sent a letter to the tech company describing their pilot scheme as "undesirable" and in unfair competition with licensed taxis.

It said "operating parallel regulated and non regulated regimes would undermine the regulated transport system".

The boss of the ride-sharing app's Irish arm Kieran Harte said that the decision was "disappointing" but said Uber remained committed to the tech firm's Centre of Excellence in Limerick and its operations in Dublin.

"We are still in conversations with the government about innovating in the sector," he said.

Kieran Harte, Uber GM Ireland, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, Deputy Mayor of Limerick Gerald Mitchell and Uber executive Sean Killeen at the Uber opening in Thomas Street, Limerick. Photo: Brian Gavin
Kieran Harte, Uber GM Ireland, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, Deputy Mayor of Limerick Gerald Mitchell and Uber executive Sean Killeen at the Uber opening in Thomas Street, Limerick. Photo: Brian Gavin

Headquartered in San Francisco, Uber has been lobbying with the Government and the NTA as regards the current legislation. 

In an interview with independent.ie two months ago, the boss of the ride-sharing app's Irish arm Kieran Harte said that he was hopeful of a positive of a response from the NTA.

Read more: 'I never thought I'd say Uber and Healy-Rae would be a force to be reckoned with' - Uber Ireland boss believes its ride-sharing services 'has to happen in Ireland'

"We've sent four submissions to the NTA and we haven't had any responses in writing back from those in the last 18 months. What is it about what Uber is proposing that doesn't work?," he told independent.ie.

''We certainly haven't been told 'No' at any stage. We understand that, at the moment, it comes down to changes in legislation or just a change to the NTA rules; so it is in their remit. We're very hopeful about that."

Mr Harte started off as the General Manager of Ireland, but now looks after Scotland and Wales and parts of the UK as the appetite for business was not evident.

He said that further investment in the new 'centre of excellence' in Limerick Uber opened early 2016 cannot be guaranteed if the full extent of the product offering cannot be rolled out.

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