HACKNEY drivers in Abbeyfeale who believe that illegal, unlicensed taxi drivers in the town are putting their livelihoods at risk have called for undercover gardai to bring an end to the practice.
In recent months complaints have been made to both the gardai and the taxi regulator about a small number of “brazen” unlicensed taxi drivers who have been collecting customers and charging fares illegally.
Last month, a number of legitimate hackney drivers working in Abbeyfeale spoke out about the practice, and urged members of the public to be aware of the damage unlicensed operators were doing.
However Sean O’Donoghue of Shamrock cabs, who has worked as a hackney driver in Abbeyfeale since 1993, said that the practice is still taking place, and called for new tough measures from gardai.
“If someone [from An Garda Siochana] were to put on a coat, walk down to one of these fellas and sit into the back of the car, that’d be the end of it. [The gardai] are never going to see any money changing hands, this is the only way they’ll catch them out. If they wanted to, they could do it tonight.”
Local gardai have previously stated that while illegal taxis are “not a widespread problem”, incidents of unlicensed taxis operating in Abbeyfeale have been brought to their attention, and that investigations into the matter with the taxi regulator are ongoing.
The regulator, meanwhile, has urged any driver or customer who is aware of illegal trading to contact them or their local garda station.
However Mr O’Donoghue said that despite recent media coverage of the issue, a number of illegal taxi drivers are still operating in Abbeyfeale undeterred.
“It slowed one of the fellas down a bit alright, he wasn’t coming out on to the street doing it anyway. But one of them is still parking up in the square every day, he was there this morning and nobody has said anything to him.
“We know ourselves, we see them coming in and out the whole time. Just this morning I got a letter in the post for me to file my tax returns, and these fellas have nothing said to them. There’s one of them who has his few regulars, they know the story with him and he drops them off and picks them up for a few bob.”
The National Transport Authority has asked anyone aware of illegal taxis to contact their confidential line on 0761 085 000.