'You can't have people driving taxis who don't understand the language', says cabbie boss
The Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation is supporting calls for the introduction of an English language test for cab drivers.
James Maguire, a director of the group, said drivers were often the first point of contact for tourists arriving in Dublin and as such, should be able to converse and to recommend points of interest.
His comments came after it emerged that the National Transport Authority (NTA) was reviewing the need for a knowledge test for taxi drivers, and considering whether they should have to pass an English test.
"You can't have people driving taxis who can't speak English properly," said Mr Maguire.
"When tourists arrive at the airport, the first person they meet is their taxi driver.
"If I go to the airport for a pick-up, I can converse. I can recommend places to stay or pubs. I can tell them about the city."
As part of its review, the NTA has been looking into practices in other countries, such as Australia.
Mr Maguire said the federation would be making a submission as part of the NTA's public consultation process.
He also supported the idea that taxi drivers should adhere to a dress code while at work and that vehicles being used as taxis should be held to a standard of cleanliness.
"You should have a clean and spotless car and you should be dressed neat and tidy," he said.
Asked about the possibility that English language tests could be seen as discriminatory, or complaints that some customers purposely reject taxis driven by foreign nationals, Mr Maguire disagreed there was racism in the industry.
"A lot of people don't keep their taxis tidy. If a customer has a choice of a Mercedes or a rust bucket, they'll walk past the rust bucket."
"People are not going to want to get into a car like that. It's not racism," he said.
The number of active taxi licences last year was 22,440, down from 47,529 in 2009.
Mr Maguire believed the reduction was down to increasing costs, such as insurance, some drivers failing to secure tax clearance certificates and a pick up in the economy.
The NTA consultation process has been opened until the end of this month, for members of the public who want to make their views known on the issue.
According to the organisation, there has been a 42pc drop in the number of licensed drivers since the 2009 introduction of a knowledge test for drivers.
It also released figures showing that more than a fifth of taxi drivers are aged in their 60s and 6pc are older than 70. Just 1pc are under 30.