Thursday, 29 April 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Among the industries and groups of workers in this country are the approximately 25,000 taxi drivers who have been crucified by the impact of Covid-19 public health restrictions. That will continue for as long as other sectors on which they depend for their income, such as music, entertainment, events, tourism and aviation, are affected. However, their appeals for specific assistance to deal with the debts they are accumulating, their ongoing costs and a financial package to help them survive and recover have been consistently refused by this Government.
To add insult to injury, taxi drivers were planning to come to Government Buildings at 10 o'clock this morning to engage in a public health compliant protest where they made it absolutely clear that they would be in their cars so as not to breach public health guidelines. Despite giving that clear assurance and communicating it to the Garda, on Wednesday, one of the representatives of the four national taxi groups received a call from Pearse Street Garda station in which they were informed that if taxi drivers turned up in their cars, every driver would be fined €100 and the organisers of the protest could face up to €20,000 in fines or up to two years' imprisonment. That is absolutely shocking.
This comes on top of a development the previous Thursday when gardaí facilitated KPMG strike-breakers doing non-essential work in non-essential retail removing stock, and physically removing, in quite a brutal way, mothers and grandmothers who were fighting for fair redundancy. I could add to that the legal threats against ESB workers pursuing a legitimate fight against outsourcing and privatisation in the ESB and film workers threatened with being fined and arrested a number of weeks ago for suggesting a protest at the RDS.
I ask the Tánaiste a very simple question. Is it the case that we have one law and one form of policing for workers who are engaging in public health compliant protests to try to secure redundancy rights, financial assistance for their industries and livelihoods which have been devastated, while the same gardaí and laws are being used to facilitate KPMG strike-breakers? Is it one law for the workers and another law for the strike-breakers? That is completely unacceptable. I ask the Tánaiste to respond.