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Monday 11 December 2017

Terry Prone: The toddlers-in-a-tantrum behaviour of taxi drivers is simply a road to nowhere

We passed taxi rank after taxi rank with no taxis parked in them.

Each rank was flanked by a small queue of potential passengers looking puzzled. We passed some ranks where taxi drivers were leaning up against a nearby wall, talking and waving business away.

At Heuston station, hundreds of passengers issued forth from incoming trains and stood around with their luggage, looking mystified.

I witnessed all of this, ironically, from a taxi.

I'd ordered it, not knowing the taxi drivers were doing another disruptive protest. The taxi driver said his company mainly did work for accounts, including hospitals such as the Mater, and there was no bloody way he was going to stop doing that work, particularly after his experience in one recent "protest" when he was threatened by striking drivers who kicked his car as it slowed in traffic.

"I don't know who this organisation is," he told me. "One of the guys yelled at me today and I rolled down my window and told him that if it was a proper trade union action, I'd be right there with them, but finding out that I was supposed to be on strike by listening to the morning news? Being instructed by an alliance I never joined? Forget it."

This man, like most Dublin cab drivers, has taken a major hit in his wallet.

He's working two extra hours a day in order to make the same money he made three years ago.

Desperate

One of his fellow drivers rang while I was in his car, to say he was now desperate because he couldn't afford to get the transmission on his car fixed but couldn't go on the dole because, as a self-employed cabbie, he doesn't qualify for unemployment benefit.

"There's too many taxis on the road," my driver said.

"None of us can make a decent living as a result. I don't like what I hear about the regulator.

"The whole industry has gone bananas. But you don't refuse business when you're already broke because some organisation you never signed up to is calling for strikes."

As I got out of his car, the news was beginning to filter through that major disruption was happening on the M50 -- caused by taxi drivers engaged in yet another day of pointless protest. Because pointless it is.

If you want to protest about something, it helps if the people you inconvenience sympathise with your objective.

People I talked to yesterday who couldn't get taxis hadn't a clue what precisely the taxi drivers wanted done. They were also confused by the fact that, although no taxis could be found on the ranks, lots of taxis could be seen in the city centre traffic.

Nobody felt sympathy for the taxi drivers, any more than they felt sympathy for the passport office people.

What they felt, instead, was frustration and rage at having their lives, which are complicated enough right now, being further complicated to no good end by a bunch of people whose anger seemed to be turning them against their customers or potential customers.

The striking taxi drivers seem to be slow learners. They created mayhem when the Progressive Democrats drove deregulation into their business.

Did the mayhem change anything? No.

Now, they're creating mayhem -- we assume -- to try to force the Government to step in and force the regulator to do something she wasn't set up to do.

Screaming

Even if they had the public on their side, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that the Government would intervene on their side. Some members of the current Government might like to throw money at the problem. But you know what? There's no money to throw.

One group of taxi drivers is behaving like toddlers in a tantrum who lie down and drum their heels on the floor, screaming.

They're not influencing the public, the regulator, or the Government. Just wrecking the city which is their workplace.

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