Today's Times (subs required) reports that black taxi drivers are finding it difficult to pick up fares in Dublin and other areas. They say that passengers at ranks are going past them and getting into cabs with white drivers.

The National Taxi Drivers' Union president, Tommy Gorman, denies that racism is involved and suggests that people may have had previous experience with "coloured" drivers (what century are we in again?) not knowing where they were going.

Of course, this never happens with white Irish drivers. Oh no. I never had to give a white Irish taxi driver directions from Heuston Station to Dundrum. I never had to give a white Irish taxi driver directions from O'Connell Street to Phibsboro, for fuck's sake. Yes, Phibsboro. I never had a white Irish taxi driver get hopelessly lost trying to get me from Cabra to the Coolmine rail station. These incidents must all be figments of my imagination.

Gorman made his comments in the context of suggestions that white drivers should refuse to take these fares. He was defending the white drivers for failing to do so. That's understandable. He's a union leader, and the role of a union leader is to stand up for the union workers. But what he seems to be missing here is that he's the president of all the NTDU workers - including the black ones. He should be standing up for them, too, not suggesting these occurrences are their own fault.

The suggestion that taxi drivers should have to take a local knowledge test is a sensible one. If implemented, it would surely weed out most of those drivers (Irish and non-Irish, black, white or whatever) who don't know where they're going. But will it, as Gorman suggests, weed out those passengers who refuse to get into a cab with a black person driving it? Somehow, I don't think so.

What a difference a year makes … or maybe not

I’d kind of forgotten all about this post. It was brought back to me when I had a look at my visitor stats and noticed someone with an ISP from Fianna Fáil headquarters doing a trawl for blog posts on ‘Bertiegate’. A little worried up at Mount Street, are we?

In retrospect, of course, I think I was a little easy on de Taoiseach. I’m still of the view that there isn’t – so far – hard evidence of anything beyond general sliminess and misjudgement. The inconsistencies that have arisen since then obviously strengthen the case against him, and darken the cloud over his head, to a degree that would embarrass most western leaders into stepping down. But again, this is Ireland we’re talking about, and Fianna Fáil. Even if Bertie goes – and don’t get me wrong, he should – the state is still going to be run by people to whom the going rate of a terraced house is money to be casually handed out to ‘friends’. And it’s still going to be run for those people, which to my mind is the real scandal.

I’ve been struck by this over the past couple days, with the news about Tuesday's Garda shooting in Dublin. That’s obviously a serious and newsworthy story but for God’s sake does nobody see the link between the greed that leads to that kind of behaviour, and the kind that results in fatcats having enormous sums of cash to distribute in ‘whiparounds’ for politicians, and the kind that results in stories like this one? What, apart from the social class of the participants, is the real difference? Thousands of people die in this country every year as a result of poverty, inequitable access to essential health care or other forms of government malfeasance which occur as a direct result of the privileging of the business class at the expense of everyone else - are their lives worth less than the relative handful of people killed by working class gangsters? I don’t think so.

The plain fact of the matter is that this state is controlled by people who have no regard for the law, no concern for anyone else’s well-being and no interest more pressing than stuffing their own pockets. It should hardly come as a surprise to them that some of the proles want in on the action, and are equally indifferent to the consequences of the means they have at their disposal.

Quick note on the unmarried fathers case

Good news in this case. I haven't followed it closely, and I understand it's probably only a limited victory, but it is certainly a good decision - not just for the man in question and his children, but also for common sense.

I have a problem with a lot of the fathers' rights crowd. Too often their complaints about the Irish legal system descend into rants on feminism - as if the legislators and judges who came up with our family law were all mad women's libbers, rather than ultraconservative Catholics trying to discourage extramarital sex and believing that women should mind the kids, preferably while standing barefoot and pregnant [but only by their husband] in the kitchen.

But the underlying argument - that unmarried fathers in particular are grossly discriminated against in Irish law - is virtually undebatable. Today's decision may be only a small step toward reversing this ridiculous injustice, but it's a welcome one.

A little Friday brainteaser

Which TD, from a government party, was spotted chatting away on his mobile while cycling down a busy city centre street today?
  Subscribe with Bloglines