herald

Monday 12 November 2018

Taximan says he was pelted with bananas on O'Connell St

ANOTHER Dublin taxi driver has come forward to claim discrimination against African workers in the taxi industry.

Austin Osemwegie told the Herald that he had been threatened with a knife and that his car had been pelted with bananas and stones when he attempted to pick up passengers up from ranks near O'Connell Street in the last year.

His allegations come less than a week after a Herald investigation which reported claims that certain ranks in the capital were segregated with black drivers preferring to work south of the Liffey.

"I was about 15 metres away from the O'Connell Street rank when a woman flagged me," Mr Osemwegie said.

"Four taxi drivers stepped out of the rank and started saying I wasn't allowed to pick up the passenger.

"One of them came up to my car, he opened the door and took out a small knife.

"He said he'd be sticking it in my neck if I didn't leave so I didn't take the passenger, because there was nothing else I could do, it was the afternoon, but I felt threatened. After that I stopped going to the O' Connell Street rank, that was about a year ago."

Six months ago, Mr Osem-wegie said, he was once again intimidated by other taxi drivers when he picked up a passenger at the Sackville rank, near O'Connell Street.

"A group of drivers first said that I wasn't allowed to join them on the rank and I couldn't understand because it's a public place and passengers have the right to choose any taxi they want, so I didn't pay attention to them," he said.



FRUIT



"I was about to pick up a passenger when they started throwing things at my car, anything they could find, mostly fruit -- bananas and apples -- that the must have had in the car -- and then stones.

"I decided to leave so they wouldn't destroy my car, and now that's another area I don't go to unless I'm dropping someone off."

The German national, who was born in Nigeria, said he could not understand it.

"I can't believe some people think we have no right to work here or that we're profiting from the system.

"I'm a European national and I have always worked to support my family -- my wife and my 11-year-old daughter -- I've been studying scriptwriting at Temple Bar school.

"In Nigeria, I was an English literature and government teacher and I came to Ireland to study. I'd love to study part-time but that would mean relying on the State and that is the one thing I don't want to do."

Mr Osemwegie did not report the attacks.

He added: "Friends of mine who have felt threatened themselves said it was a waste of time and money, that there was nothing that could be done and that I'd only get trouble out of it.

"That's why I'm speaking out about it now; it's a real problem even though it's quite local.

"Since I've kept away from these areas, there's never been another problem, I often work around Heuston Station, Gloucester Street, Dame Street and everyone is fine there, so I just hope it won't start happening there too."

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