An interesting letter written to the Examiner newspaper by John ODonoghue.TD.
"Gun bins in churches is merely the latest in a long list of ill-thought-out and ill-conceived policies advanced by the main opposition party.
An indication of the clear bankruptcy of ideas engulfing the Fine Gael front bench is their tendency to seek refuge in policies of the last pipedream.
In the past year, Fine Gael has declared its support for a number of Alice in Wonderland policies such as drunk tanks, legalising small brothels (as opposed to big ones, presumably) and boot camps.
Fine Gael has also proposed a ban on the wearing of hoodies.
Interestingly, their proposal in this regard is not far removed from the ‘No to Hoodies, Yes to Top Hats’ policy platform of the UK Monster Raving Loony Party.
At the last election, Fine Gael proposed the fiscally irresponsible policies of compensating taxi drivers and eircom shareholders. The flawed polices put forward by that party in the lifetime of the current Dáil mean they deserve full marks for consistency — if for nothing else.
It was once believed that dinosaurs would always be there because dinosaurs were always there. That theory proved to be false.
Sadly for Fine Gael, the proposition is equally untrue for political parties."
John O’Donoghue TD
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism
Well John, in case it missed your notice,your own party (Seamus Brennan) did finally compensate some of the worst hit taxidrivers to the tune of 10 million Euros after a long campaign by pensioners and widows of deceased drivers who found themselves thrown back on a derisory state pension (non index linked) after your party re-regulated the business some years ago, to save your necks because Mary Hearney threatened to pull the plug on your corrupt and incompetent administration if you refused to do so.
Fianna Fail have since made a good thing of selling taxi licences for 5000 Euros each.About 60 million Euros worth.
God willing, a high court case due to commence in 2007 may result in you being forced to compensate the rest of the drivers, because with you entered into a corrupt vote harvesting pact with members of the Irish Taxi Federation, (John Usher?) to safeguard a Dail seat in North Dublin, and you got greedy and started selling the partially "Deregulated" plates.
As for your other gripe,the legalization of brothels will come-but probably not until all the rosary bead reciting neanderthals and rogues in your party who steal from the poor , are dead and gone and Ireland has become a progressive,21st century nation like its many european neighbour states.
The truth will out in the end.It always does,because the desire for natural justice is a force far stronger than your inept political entity-reguardless of how many votes you buy with the peoples taxes to secure your re-election.
Was John ODonohoe naked or had he a magic suit of clothes?:
Todays Gospel reading for taxidrivers,too busy to attend church service;
"Now once upon a time a great rift occurred in the land of Drumcondra and Saint Bert and his favourite handmaid Mary had a great falling out over the mundane matter of sore feet.
The inhabitants of a great city named Dublin had suffered terrible affliction for many a year. Night after night,great multitudes trudged homeward, walking many miles to reach their destination, after imbibing a few bottles of wine in the city taverns.
The power of the Irish Taxi Federation was great indeed and nobody had dared to challenge it so great was their influence among the most powerful barons who dwelt in St Luke,s Castle.Drumcondra.
A great outcry arose from among the long suffering peasants of Dublin after brigands robbed and murdered in the streets,some visitors who had arrived in the country to experience the legendary hospitality of the Irish people.
The handmaid Mary declared that unless more chariots were provided for the safety of the citizenry she would depart from St Lukes, and then-not only Drumcondra- ,but all the country would be laid waste by the Rabbittes and the Blueshirts.
The Soldiers of Destiny called a clandestine council meeting of their great chieftains to discuss this dreadful ultimatum.Their special secret envoy to the charioteers taxi federation-one Ivor Callelly ,was dispatched to inform the charioteers that the secret pact was about to be dissolved because of "the urgency of the crisis" ( saving their own skins.!)
There was great anger among the charioteers at this news and they proceeded to that place in North Dublin controlled by S.I.P.T.U. and other unions where they laid siege to the buildings so that no traveller could enter or depart from the land of Ireland.
Their siege was condemned by the great lord Bertram,who then reconciled with Mary.On the third day,The siege was ignonimously abandoned by the chariot drivers upon seeing the combined forces prepared to wage terrible destruction ,among them and knowing that the Hackneyateers were about to be launched against them.
And so the wrath of all the people,led by the handmaid Mary,(a simple country girl who some said was the Maid of Orleans,reincarnated) was felt by the charioteers who had conspired with the Soldiers of Destiny... "
This the Gospel of the Soldiers of Destiny, according to the book of Saint Bert.
Article 45 of the irish constitution; section(3)
The state recognizes that the operation of free competition shall not be allowed so to develop as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential commodities in a few individuals to thecommon detriment
TAXI! TAXI!- VOTE FOR US,AND WE VOTE FOR YOU!
I had a personal interest in taxi matters before I won the lottery and retired to the Canary Islands.
Being involved in the industry for so long almost ruined me. I wrote a few letters now and then on this topic,during my term of trial trying to run a hackney business,and after I had parted company with everything connected thereto.
The year prior to deregulation of the taxi industry I was trying to persuade the authorities to improve the efficiency of the taxi and hackney industry by bring in certain urgent reforms.I contacted Mary Hearney among many others in this fruitless exercise.
I did receive an acknowledgement of my letter to her,in which she stated that reform of the industry was on her agenda for the next round of coalition partners discussions and programme for government.
I found it impossible to operate my fleet of hackneys effectively,as they were refused access to bus lanes when Dublin became a Hell on earth for motorists,and every small public service private hire "Hackney" vehicle. Hackney Drivers were refusing to work during business rush hour hours periods when they were needed most.
The same fleet of 5000 hackneys were propping up the dire shortage of Taxis in Dublin every night of the week.
I and many others were unaware of how radically Mary Hearney intended to proceed.She made a right mess of deregulating the Pharmacy industry.And she did the same with the Taxis.
Mary and Bertie bickered for a while over the issue, like two old crows,but Mary prevailed. She was determined to get her way.
October ,2000;my letter published and reprinted here ,among many wasted letters to various departments of "Fianna Fail"s government departments.Unfortunately,I was only pissing against the wind.
Letters to the Editor of the Irish Times
As a recently retired hackney service operator with 25 years experience in the taxi/hackney industry, I beg space to comment on recent Court decisions re: the small public service vehicle transport sector.
I recently abandoned all prospect of running an efficient business (while, in account with many of the worlds largest companies located in West Dublin). The 'vested interests' malaise responsible for the prevailing chaos in the industry is not confined to the Taxi Owners Union, but this particular lobby group may now become a victim
of its own success.
The economic boom and drink/driving restrictions compounded the taxi shortage.
The outrageous moratorium on new competition (hackney operators licences), which followed, and the non-implementation of the expensive, authoritative and excellent "Oscar Faber Consultants Study" of both industries, commissioned by Dublin Corporation three years ago, gave the death knell to the development of hackney services.
To this day they cannot utilize the bus-lanes. The labour shortage is now another added dimension in this as in other sectors. The main Oscar Faber recommendations were;
1. Allow both sectors full access to the same competitive advantages (ie. bus-lanes).
2. To continue a phased issue of licences in both sectors.
If these basic reforms had been initiated then, we would not now be facing extreme chaos and a possible free for all in taxi deregulation, which may ultimately create as many problems as it purports to solve.
If a ship is adrift with no rudder a doubling of the crew is no solution.
We need two separate efficient competing services, not another monopoly regulated or deregulated, to replace the current disorder."
The taxi industry finally got its come-uppance in 2002,when a spate of internecine warfare between Fianna Fail (Ivor Callely) and the P.D.(Progressive Democrat)Party resulted in the abandonment of a secret pact,initiated by Fianna Fail and a group of taxi operators who had formed a lobby group to oppose all reform of the Taxi industry.They provided thousands of votes for ‘ The Soldiers’,in Bertie’s own North Dublin Electoral Ward,and helped them capture a marginal seat there-in return for which tight controls on the issue of new taxis resulted in a dire shortage in our capital city for almost a decade.
Few people had much sympathy for taxi drivers,when the final meltdown of ‘deregulation’ occurred.
.Too many people had suffered for too long to shed a tear even if every taxi driver in the city was hung drawn and quartered!-let alone deregulated.
In fact there was celebrations in the streets.So this was a fairly populist move for Fianna Fail and they also placated Mary Harney’s thirst for taximen’s blood.
It did cause some bad feeling.The Licensed Vintners trade in alcohol was not deregulated,as it ought to have been, long ago.Then again the state makes 170,000 euros per annum from every licence renewal.Why spoil a good thing.? Michael McDowell tried this one on in June 2005,and he had to back off.
The Airport based hard taxi driver "bully boys" from the environs of Finglas,Coolock,Ballymun,Drumcondra etc were a well organized grouping within the Irish Taxi Federation and formed the hard core of Bertie,s voters/supporters in a marginal constituency where a few thousand extra votes ensured another safe seat. These drivers blockaded Dublin Airport ,just prior to meltdown,and tried desperately to head off the P.D.s planned deregulation in the courts.Ironically the threat to replace them at the airport with the fleets of hackneys which emerged ,because of long years of inadequate provision of extra taxi licences; resulted in their final capitulation.
The existance of an alternative cab service rendered the taxi union's strike weapon useless. It was like the demise of the miners unions power in Britian because Mrs Thatcher had the nuclear power stations to maintain vital electricity service.
It was an ignonimous end for John Usher, president of the Taxi Federation, and his cohorts.
The Irish Farmers Associations members, to this day "rent" licences(E.E.U.quotas) to other farmers to produce milk,just as many taxi medallions were rented by their owners,on retirement, to new drivers who wished to enter the business.Even fishermen rent fishing quotas in the ultimate charade called the C.A.P.(Common agricultural Policy)
Bertie does not act the "bully boy" with these farmers/fishermen supporters...and abolish or deregulate their subsidies.The story of the taxi plate meltdown is an intriguing one and has never been told in full,until now.
Minister Seamus Brennan ,finally offered 10,000 Euros compensation for the widows and old age pensioners who lobbied the government because they had lost their rental income from these plates,and could prove "hardship" of sorts.
Both my spouse and myself owned a medallion,at the time we were operating a hackney company.Their combined value plummeted overnight from about 200,000 Euros to 10,000 Euros. Tough shit.One had been bought with a large bank loan which had fortunately had been fully paid off,over a period of seven years.
.Included in a so called "compensation scheme", were any drivers who still had large loans outstanding after having purchased taxi plates prior to deregulation,and could prove genuine "hardship".
That is to say ,if you have not sold your house and moved into the Morning Star Hostel (A doss house for winos and down and outs in North Brunswick Street, Dublin) you need not apply!.
Some owners had borrowed money to purchase a taxi plate at market rates of some 90,000 Euros. A small minority of them got 10,000 euros in compensation.
This whole debacle is another tale of now forgotten corruption worthy of a separate Tribunal, could our taxpayers afford it. Hardly of interest to anybody.
Nobody was much interested. By now everyone hated taxi drivers with a vengance.(So would I, if I had been on the suffering end of this 'public service' facility after closing time or a night on the town,for the previous ten years.)
Where I live now in Spain(Gran Canaria) taxi plates fetch up to 150,000 Euros,if you can buy one. They rarely come on the open market. There has however, never been calls for deregulation.
Nevertheless supply and demand are well matched,and one rarely has to wait more than 15 minutes for a cab-even at peak periods.It’s called good governance, untainted by corruption.
Fianna Fail ‘governance’ of this sector devastated the incomes of thousands of widows and pensioners, in the end.
In New York and many other major cities throughout the world,where taxi medallions are tradeable assets owned by large limited companies,the service is tuned to the demand,and some new licenses issued yearly,as demand increases.
Ireland’s taxi industry experienced a decade of chaos due to political corruption and then… the sledgehammer of deregulation.!
My letter on the subject was published in a new taxi industry periodical, in 2004;
‘It is well documented that one Drumcondra based T.D Ivor Callely(now a Minister of State,and maybe a Taoiseach ...some day) was deeply involved with a group of influential members of the Irish Taxi Federation (taxi unions umbrella body)for the purposes of vote harvesting. This relationship can only be described as a corrupt one.
It is said of Ivor Callely that; "If cannibals were living in his constituency(Clontarf) ..he would be selling human flesh-at a discount.The taxidrivers learned the truth of this witticism,to their cost.!
The ‘arrangement’ with Ivor and Bertie resulted in severe and unwarranted restrictions on the issue of new taxi plates , for decades,and left Dublin without a proper Taxi service. The secret pact even succeeded in halting the release of competing hackney plates which were desperately needed to shore up the totally inadequate taxi infrastructure.
Only shortly before the final meltdown in the industry,-enforced by the P.D.s.as a condition of remaining in coalition government, -were hackney plates re-issued-and then, too late.
Furthermore 5000 Dublin Hackneys were totally emasculated for many years, as they were refused admission to bus lanes,by the Department of the Environment ,on the pretext that they had no identification plates,when traffic chaos became the norm on our roads. Catch 22 was the refusal of the government to consider the issue of any identification plates whatsoever, to identify them as small public service(private) vehicles,for many years.
Two years after the industry meltdown, and an intense lobby campaign by widows of deceased taxidrivers, Minister Seamus Brennan issued the usual 'spin' a misleading press statements,indicating how generous his party had been to the many victims of this unprecedented deregulation action,-which they were forced to entertain in the end , to remain in power and placate the coalition P.D. party led by Mary Hearney.
Payments of 10,000 Euros on average, have been made to about one thousand of the worst affected victims,such as widows,and retired taxi-drivers who had made no private pension provision in the mistaken belief that they would always have a rental income from their investment-in the same way that a publican rents a pub licence;or a farmer rents a milk quota ;or a fisherman rents a fish quota.
Only people who could provide compelling hard evidence of ‘hardship and loss of income to an investigating panel,received consideration
This ‘generous’ sum had to compensate them for the loss of their primary pension source for the rest of their lives.
If that is considered worthy of a press release(read’spin’) indicating Fianna Fail’s benevolence to their former friends and ardent supporters; then the taxi drivers don’t need enemies.Better by far to be in the building trade or land speculation.
The local authorities have since made a staggering 50 million Euros profit from the countrywide sale of taxi plates at 6000,Euros a go.! Hundreds of new plates are coming on stream every month and now doubt will continue to do so,until the market and reaches its own 'natural' balance,which will not be a happy one for many of those within the industry.
Approximately 10 million Euros has been paid in compensation to widows.According to Minister Brennan the matter(debacle) is now closed.
Corruption pays ,it seems on all counts-but the proceeds always end up in Fianna Fail’s bank accounts.
A FEW UNFORESEEN RAPES-WOULD MARY HARNEY LET HER DAUGHTER TRAVEL ALONE ,IN one of her DEREGULATED TAXICABS?
After deregulation,every hood and ex-convict in Dublin found themselves an honest living-in the taxi business! The C.A.B. had dispossessed many criminal figures of their assets and made earning a dishonest living so difficult ,that seasoned robbers and drug dealers, reformed ,and decided to 'go straight'- Straight into the taxi business.!
A few of the new bad apples caused some bad publicity for the taxi industry when some young women were sexually assaulted by taxi drivers.This was an unforeseen side effect of deregulation.The cost of a taxi plate heretofore was an effective barrier to keeping out the worst of the riff-raff.Now the business was open to everybody.
Minister Brennan hurriedly issued one of his reassuring and frequent spin press releases to say that the taxi business was hindsightedly being ‘cleaned up’fortwith.He,and his colleagues have said that about the thieving taxi operators robbing tourists at Dublin airport rank for 30 years-but only every time a new story appeared in the newspapers about another incident there. Hindsight is a fine art with the Fianna Fail administration after 30 years of ineptitude in all areas of policy.
A press release has been a panacea for everything wrong with this country, during 3 decades of the 'Soldiers of Destiny'.
A new monthly Taxi oriented newspaper started up in the summer of 2004,soon after the rape events, and I was able to publish my personal views ,writing under a pseudonym ,on the various topical matters which were being heatedly discussed on the taxi ranks in Dublin;-
" Many of your younger readers may not be fully informed of the political intrigues which brought meltdown to the taxi Industry some years ago.
It is a fascinating tale indeed.
‘Fianna Fail’s Seamus Brennan, recently issued a press release on the Taxi industry,citing a ‘clampdown’ on unsuitable drivers,which was total and utter nonsense. .This,from a party who are to responsible for the long term mismanagement of this whole sector,as with everything else they put their hand to.
It is now public record that Fianna Fail,and their henchmen in the Drumcondra constituency entered a Faustian voting pact with a certain group of taxi drivers,to garner more votes during election time.One of the most influential figures in the taxi industry can attest to this.Indeed it is public knowledge and comment has been passed on the topic by many newspapers.
For a ten year period.Fianna Fail purchased the voting loyalty of the disproportionately large number of cabbies who lived in the Taoiseach’s own constituency in Drumcondra,Dublin,and the surrounding environs.
One Ivor Callely,now a junior minister in Bertie’s favorite hot potato(the department of health) benefited most from this ‘arrangement’. He had a free shuttle service of P.S.V’s,at his disposal,every election day. All Taxis sported large advertising banners with his name,and ferried his infirm supporters from nursing homes ,and the like, to the local election booths,held their hands steady as they gave their preferences to the Soldiers of Destiny.
The quid quo pro of this ‘arrangement’ had an unhappy downside for a generation of foot-weary Dubliners,most of whom were young, non-political,and voiceless. All can attest to walking home,as part of their weekend sufferings,after a saturday night on the town.The patient(or lazy)stood for up to two hours in a taxi queue at the city ranks.
Even the multinational companies, and the business community felt the effects of this (dare I say corrupt) electoral vote buying .Many a businessman missed his outgoing flight at Dublin Airport so extensive was the problem. The hackney drivers-those that could get licences- were the main beneficiaries of both the scarcity of taxis ,and the final outcome of the whole conspiracy,when the plot finally unraveled.
The P.D.s insisted on resolving the taxi scarcity, with the de-regulation sledgehammer. A drastic remedy for a drastic situation.I understand there are still compensation claims before the courts.The state has paid out some compensation as already indicated, to the worst affected plate holders; pensioners,widows etc.
As for Minister Brennan's ‘culling’of ‘unsuitable’ and ‘dodgy’drivers by the Garda Carriage Office;
The officially accepted figure of today’s cab drivers ,who have criminal records,is an incredible 20 percent.!
Ger Deering the "Taxi Regulator" ,( a loyal Fianna Fail lackey with a new job ) promises to put this 20 percent of former criminals " off the roads" in 2007.
It will not- and can not happen.Why.?
It is a cornerstone of law that a person cannot be punished twice for a previous crime.To deprive him of his livelihood would be a heinous injustice and would not survive legal challenge in the courts. Fianna Fail propaganda-as usual.Promising to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted.
These men have of coursepaid for their past deeds,and would have difficulty getting other work.It is a precedent in the law that a man cannot be punished twice over for the same crime.
Mr John Usher ,boss of the Taxi federation used this reasoning himself to prevent Aer Rianta from withdrawing parking permits from Airport based rogue cabbies over the years - many of whom had court convictions for overcharging etc.If this was logical then,as Aer Rianta for many years accepted it was(a seperate story),now his logic is in full reverse,by Minister Brennan.
I have documented evidence in my possession that among the airport based operatives 15 years ago, were men who had been convicted of armed robbery.The minister of the day raised no objections to that driver continuing his livelihood in the taxi trade,when this fact was brought to light during an assault court case,in which the same driver was convicted of bodily harm to a fellow colleague during a fracas at the Airport taxi rank.The details were fully documented in the ‘Irish Times’of the day.
Furthermore at the onset of deregulation,Dublin had a fleet of 5000 hackney cabs-who gave a dedicated taxi service to the business community and telephone requests from private households. 90 percent of these drivers changed to taxi plates on deregulation.There was two competing taxi services(Mr Brennan loves competition) Not any more.All fares are fully regulated today.It is a fixed price monopoly.
So,the actual increase in public service vehicles in Dublin-though substantial- is not as high as is frequently claimed,but is growing steadily with the current downturn in employment prospects.
The latest demand for an income tax clearance certificate from Revenue for all drivers-old and new-before renewing their licences must surely be constitutionally untenable.Will a failed businessman with a judgement against him,by Revenue, be denied the option of earning a livelihood as a taxidriver?-similiarly an ill taxi driver off the road and behind in his tax payments?
I am now retired.When I entered the business 30 years ago the hard core taxidrivers of the Irish Taxi Federation had an anti-part timer pogrom in full swing,against 'part timers'. They would have been well advised to accept the part timers,as having a role at peak periods,and also the need for more taxis over the years.Instead they engaged in backroom, political intrigue with the Bertie's boys in 'St Lukes' in Drumcondra. It will be election time again.They may have learned their lesson too late.Bertie does not need their votes as much as he needs Mary Hearney.And Sinn Fein will be there now to fall back on -as a last pragmatic resort. When you sup with the Devil,bring a long spoon.!’
Any chance of another Tribunal Bertie.? This time,the one we have all been waiting for...to investigate YOU.
Mr Callely finally got his comeuppance,when he lost his position as a junior minister in the Department of Transport under controversial circumstances in December 2005.("resign or be sacked " said Bertie.).
Mr Callely was ,unaccountably, unable to retain personnel/staff in his ministerial office for any length of time. He had received personal favours from construction companies with whom he had dealt with in his capacity as chairman of the Eastern Health Board.He had upstaged his bosses including Martin Cullen on numerous "photo opportunities" breaking the strict protocol that operates in the shark infested waters of political self promotion.
His submission to the Dail "register of interests",( a relatively new innovation designed "to keep TDs honest",) has remained couched in the same vague formula for at least the last three years.
With elections looming,the last thing Bert Ahern needed was surprise disclosures,and a new "Liam Lawlor" or "Ray Burke debacle" on his hands, come voting day..
During that time Mr Callely has denied receiving any gifts at all - even though he has reportedly been the beneficiary of benefits-in-kind bestowed by a series of business people and private companies.
The former junior minister has not lodged details of any of the many fundraisers which have been run on his behalf over the years which have helped to raise gigantic electoral war chests.
Only two months ago some 200 movers and shakers attended a Callely fundraiser in the K Club in Co Kildare, venue for next year's Ryder Cup competition, and there have been similar constituency fundraisers at other swish venues including the Mansion House.
It has been reported that green fees for 200 people were waived at the K Club in October, amounting to a benefit-in-kind of more than €10,000. It would be declarable early next year under ethical legislation.
It has been claimed that "the guts of €100,000" was raised at the most recent K Club event, which the golf facility was not in a position to comment on yesterday.
Gerry Gannon, the millionaire property developer and part-owner of the K Club, was reportedly at the event but was out of the country and unavailable for comment yesterday.
For the last three years Mr Callely has claimed that his only income has been as a member of Dail Eireann and a minister of state.
A young english tourist was waylaid by a gang of bowsies in Pearse Street Dublin and stabbed to death on the streets of Dublin a few years ago because he could not get a taxi and decided to walk home
to his lodging in Ringsend/Sandymount.
Nobody had told him the streets you try and avoid late at night.
This incident probably determined that Mary Hearney would have her way on Taxi Deregulation.She threatened to leave government if it did not occur.
if Bertie Ahern had not discovered that a marginal seat in his constituency was his for the taking if he could be assured of a few thousand votes from the large block of taxidrivers who lived in his constituency and if his then right hand man-the now discredited Ivor Callely had not entered into a pact with the taxi federation which saw Dublin without a proper Taxi service for a decade- would that mans unfortunate parents now be grieving for the loss of their son ?
Corruption in public life hurts people whether they be new house buyers,or innocent tourists.Sometimes it kills them.
FROM "early 2007", anyone with a serious conviction who drives a taxi, hackney or limousine will have their licence revoked,according to a Fianna Fail propaganda release distributed to the newspapers in June 2006.
More meaningless nonsense.
The new regulations are part of the Commission for Taxi Regulation's 2006-2007 action plan.
Under Section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, which comes into effect early next year, drivers applying for or holding a taxi, hackney or limousine licence will be automatically disqualified if they have been convicted for serious offences, including murder, manslaughter, sexual and non-fatal assaults. Taxi regulator Ger Deering said the long-awaited reforms would bring about huge benefits for passengers and drivers. It will not. Only a miniscule percentage of the 20 percent of taxi drivers with criminal convictions, fall into the 'serious crime" categories aforementioned.More hype and bullshit from the "Soldiers" propaganda department.They cannot retrospectively, put out of business existing Public Service Vehicle licence holders.It would trigger a constitutional challenge in the courts-and Ger Deering would lose.
The cosy cartel of the taxi-drivers
MUCH as I'd like to join everyone else in kicking the crap out of the taxi-drivers, I'm afraid there's a bit of a con-job going on here. Truly, I have as many reasons as anyone else for putting the boot in, but I'm convinced that if you listen carefully to what's going on you'll hear a soft, rustling noise in the background. It's the sound of wool being pulled over people's eyes.
It's true that for years anyone dependent on taxis for getting around this flea-bitten capital city has been treated with contempt. There are fine, professional drivers out there, and quite a lot of them. But there are a lot of cowboys. As a group, they maintained a stranglehold on the social and business life of the city.
Drivers who didn't have a licence, so-called "cosies", were forced to pay £250 a week for the right to work. They had to pay that money to the licence owner, before earning a penny for themselves. To own a licence was to be a little baron, with the right to extract money from hard-working cosies and to harass hackney drivers. Some people owned several licences. In order to maintain this racket, the public had to be deprived of the transport we required, forcing us to queue for hours or increasingly simply to stay home rather than put ourselves through the misery of finding a way out of the city centre.
So the taxi-drivers are on strike this weekend? Really? How can we tell? The service is hardly any worse when they're off the road than it was when they were working.
There is good reason for the public anger. Yet, look around you aren't there some quare hawks lining up to kick the taxi-drivers now that they're down?
Looking at the TV news on Friday evening, there was Bertie Ahern, from Zagreb, telling us how the Government had to act. Good man, Bertie. Leadership in action. But for years Ahern tolerated the taxi rackets, knowing damn well what was going on. His Government, and its predecessors, protected the rackets (for whatever reason, and it is one of the real political mysteries of our time).
Incredibly, it dawdled, offering licence holders a second licence in a vain and time-wasting attempt to persuade them to relax their grip on the city. And the Government would still be soft-pedalling on the issue if it wasn't for the courts.
The "expert" economists are lining up to praise "deregulation". They dismiss lightly the plight of some taxi-drivers who paid huge sums for licences. Yet these are the gents who for years convinced the politicians that public transport should be starved of resources. Those policies helped create the traffic chaos and create and shore up the taxi rackets.
Every right-wing crank in the country is lining up to swing a boot at the taxi-drivers, sneering at the genuine terror of those drivers who mortgaged their houses in order to get in on the rackets.
Business types demand respect for law and order. Hold on, folks, the rackets were no secret. The taxi licences were advertised for sale, in newspapers, for £70,000 and £80,000 a shot. The banks were happy to lend money to, and to profit from, the people mortgaging their homes in order to get into the taxi rackets.
The political establishment and predominantly Fianna Fáil cosied up to the rackets. At the last general election every second taxi in my area was painted with Fianna Fáil slogans.
The PDs are strutting around, claiming to be "standing firm" behind "deregulation". They desperately need an issue with which to curry public favour, to recover the credibility they lost in the O'Flaherty scandal.
There was no "deregulation". To deregulate is to take a decision to change the way a sector is administrated. There was no political decision. A judge ruled that the rackets could not continue the dawdling, hesitant politicians had no choice.
They are still trying to look after their erstwhile taxi-driver friends, to come up with a compensation scheme, without arousing too much public anger.
The drivers are not helping their politician friends by throwing their weight around.
Instead of one kind of chaos we now have another kind of chaos.
We know that the interface between business and politics is slick with greasy money. The tribunals are now uncovering the details of events of a dozen years ago. Perhaps in years to come some inquiry will reveal what exactly was going on behind the taxi rackets. And what's going on behind the Dublin pub rackets.
In the meantime, let us not prattle about "deregulation". It's more regulation we need, not less. We need political decisions made and enforced about a transport system geared to our needs, not the needs of financial interests.
And that is not what is happening.
No one "deregulated" anything. The political establishment tolerated the taxi rackets until the rotten set-up broke down under the weight of its own corruption. No politician deserves credit for anything in this mess. They didn't lead. They stumbled. And as the taxi-drivers thrash around, seeking to prolong the existence of the rackets, the politicians have slapped a "deregulation" label on events, as though they had some idea of where they are stumbling.
Yes, kicking taxi-drivers might make us feel good. But things are a bit more complicated than some would have us believe.
by GENE KERRIGAN