Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North West, Paul McAuliffe, has stated that taxi drivers have been forgotten in the response to Covid 19 and called on the NTA to establish a taxi covid response unit.

At the special Oireachtas Covid Committee earlier today, Deputy McAuliffe questioned representatives of the taxi industry on the challenges facing their drivers as they return to work.

In response to questions from Deputy McAuliffe, the industry representatives outlined that current regulations making face coverings mandatory do not cover taxis and drivers therefore do not have legal standing in refusing passengers who do not wear one.

“Industry specific guidelines or return to work protocols for taxi drivers have also not been issued by the NTA. This has created challenges in relation to screens in cars. Drivers have been installing screens in their cars for safety purposes but have then removed them before their suitability tests before reinstalling them afterwards. This is quite a ridiculous situation and the NTA has to start issuing guidance on how screens can be used safely in taxis.”

“The severe financial impact of the Covid 19 crisis on taxi drivers was laid out in stark terms by industry representatives. Most drivers are still on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and are relying on this to meet ongoing costs such as car insurance.

“As the night-time business has essentially disappeared and people continue to work from home in large numbers, demand for taxis will be low and returning to work will be difficult for drivers unless a step down social welfare payment is provided.

“Clearly a number of significant challenges exist for taxi drivers seeking to return to work. I would encourage the Tanaiste’s office to contact industry representatives to discuss how a restart grant could be provided to taxi drivers. The NTA also needs to be of more assistance for drivers who are facing large insurance bills while also trying to adapt their cars for safety during this pandemic. If drivers do not receive the help that they need we will see a mass exodus from the industry and Dublin and the rest of Ireland will not receive the current high-quality taxi service that it has become used to,” concluded Deputy McAuliffe.