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Divided by race

DUBLIN'S taxi industry is rife with racism, it has emerged, leading to massive factions within the city's ranks.

An investigation into the capital's taxi industry has found massive discrimination at taxi ranks across the city.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that segregated taxi ranks have now taken hold in Dublin with black and white taxi drivers staying away from each other.

One rank, north of the Liffey is "almost exclusively" reserved for white, Irish taxi drivers; while another, south of the Liffey, is preferred by African drivers.

Austin Nwanze (35) from Nigeria said he avoided the O'Connell Street taxi rank because of increasing discrimination.



Stones

"There have been occasions when African taxi drivers have picked up passengers at O'Connell Street or nearby, and Irish drivers have thrown stones at their cars," he told the Herald.

"It's not unusual but no one reports it because they think it's a waste of time, that the police won't be able to help. Sometimes they feel too threatened to do anything.

"They have a clique there and I can't stand it, so I haven't been there in over a year. It's getting worse.

"I've been here for 11 years, I have three boys, between the ages of two and 11 years old, it's my home now, and I'm here to work but I get discriminated against."

Dublin taximan Tony Fannin confirmed that he had seen -- and had been asked to take part in -- bigoted practices.

"I've seen Irish drivers shifting their car so black guys couldn't get on the ranks, it happens constantly.

"I was asked to do it myself at Parnell Street, a guy came to me two weeks ago and said: 'we have a new rule here, we're not going to move up for the blacks,'" the Finglas man added.

Most drivers of African origin interviewed by the Herald felt too uneasy to share their stories, and did not wish to be named or photographed.

One particular driver from Nigeria, who wished only to be known as 'Ben' said: "Racism is rampant amongst drivers, we blacks now never go to the O'Connell Street rank, and the one besides Clerys, it's just not worth all the trouble."

President of the National Taxi Drivers Union (NTDU) Aidan Moore told the Herald that racism amongst drivers was less frequent than these taximen claim.

"The majority of cases are negative encounters with members of the public, not with other drivers," he said.

"I know that measures fighting racism were introduced by the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

"If people believe racism is a real issue, these measures should have been brought in ten years ago when a lot more people started applying for licences because of deregulation and these problems started to arise."

The measures he mentioned are part of a new programme the Commission for Taxi Regulation developed to promote diversity and tolerance in the industry.



Certificate

"In recognition of the multicultural society we are living in the Commission introduced a module on diversity and equality in the driver skills development programme launched last year," a spokesperson for the agency told the Herald.

"The certificate is required for all new entrants to be licensed as a Small Public Service Vehicle (SPSV) driver and all drivers must have successfully sat the industry knowledge module test by 2012 which includes the module on diversity and equality."

Half-Irish half-Zambian taxi driver Ian Slator believed that the country's economic situation was to blame for this type of conflict, and that the Commission's efforts will not amount to anything.

The Cabra native, who regularly picks up customers from the O'Connell Street rank, denied allegations of racism within the industry.

"I haven't experienced it myself, there's always going to be problems because everybody is chasing the same work," he said.

"You can't put it down to racism or deregulation, people are worried about their jobs, they're finding it hard to get a few quid and it's a big frustration for drivers."

His colleague from Egypt, Ahmed El Gendy was surprised to hear that people complained about this issue at the rank where he usually works.

"I've worked on this rank for the last four to five years and I've never had any problems," he said.

"I look and sound foreign, I've not had the problems other African taxi drivers have mentioned, I think it's all about attitude, some people feel hard done by but it's just not the case."

The Equality Authority advised the Herald that "if people feel they have been discriminated against in the provision of taxi services on race or any other ground protected by the Equal Status Act" that they are welcome to contact them on www.equality.ie or 1890 245545


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