Watchdog bans 'racist' taxi lights
A TAXI watchdog has warned drivers to stop using additional green lights on car roofs amid concerns they advertise nationality.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) issued the order after a raft of reports in recent weeks about extra bright lights above the standard yellow rooftop signs.
The authority insisted it had not seen a prevalence of the signs but warned they were illegal. "Any such lights, regardless of the reason for their display, are contrary to rules relating to customising taxi roof signs and should therefore be removed," a spokesman said.
"In relation to alleged usage of signs to denote nationality, we note that the NTA will not tolerate racism in any form nor from any source, driver or passenger.
"The authority takes any incidences of discrimination extremely seriously."
The National Private Hire and Taxi Association said the green lights had been visible on cabs for about five months. The group also suggested the idea originated in Spain where the small bright lights are a common "for hire" sign.
Christy Humphrey, spokes- man for the group, said it was about generating business rather than race. "It's illegal to do it, to advertise on the roof," he said.
"But it was about generating business. I can't actually see how somebody can say it's to identify an Irish driver when they are available to everyone."
John Usher, president of the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation, said none of his members had reported drivers using the lights. "I don't see how you could match this up -- a green light for an Irish driver," he said.
"But if there's a trend developing out there and they think they are going to advertise Irish we'd be totally against that."
The NTA said any allegations of racism among drivers would be passed on to the gardai or the Equality Authority.