Oireachtas Report

By Tim Ryan Oireachtas Correspondent

Taxi over nine years to be phased out - Kelly

Taxi vehicles older than nine years will gradually transition out of the current fleet, Minister of State Alan Kelly told the Dáil.

Answering questions, he said a recent review group was conscious of the need to ensure an effective balance between the provision of a high quality and safe service to the public and the interests of taxi drivers with a long-term commitment to the industry.

“It is hoped that the six monthly NCT testing of vehicles aged between nine and 14 years as proposed in the review report will be commenced in tandem with new vehicle standards to be introduced by the NTA in January 2013,” he said.

The extension of the nine-year rule to 14 years in certain circumstances recognised the difficult situation in which many taxi-drivers find themselves, he said. No Minister responsible for this area had met taxi driver representatives as often as he had met them in this report phase.

“Along with that we need to take into account the requirements of consumer groups,” he said. “Consumers want to be in cars they recognise as being safe. It is essential that we have conditions that show that these cars are safe. We do not want any issues regarding the safety standards of these cars affecting public confidence in the use of taxis. Taxi-drivers will confirm that. That is why cars older than nine years and up to 14 years are tested at six-month intervals. The majority of the taxi groups were very supportive of the changes recommended by the committee I chaired.”

Hayes supports more transparency on political funding

The reduction of the maximum amount a political party can accept from any one donor to €2,500 will mean that Irish political funding laws are brought more in line with best international practice, Tipperary Fine Gael deputy, Tom Hayes told the Dáil.

Speaking on a new Bill that increases transparency in political parties, he said it was also important that the public are aware of their ability to review the annual donation reports for both parties and individual politicians on the Standards In Public Office, SIPO, Commission website.

“It is important to have such transparency whereby people can log on to that site to see at first hand the amounts,” he said.

“The redefining of what constitutes a corporate donor will also mean severe restrictions are placed on companies and trade unions when it comes to political donations,” he said. “Any donor body that is not registered with SIPO will be prohibited from contributing any more than €200 to either a political party or an individual candidate. I note that virtually all of these moves have been welcomed by Government and opposition Deputies alike. It is good to see such a united and determined effort to prevent special interests from influencing what is, and should always remain, a purely democratic process.”

Deputy Hayes said the new Bill will mean that the future of political funding lies in smaller, more widespread donations from members of the public. If anything, this change would mean that all public representatives will need to devote even far more time to the interests of their constituents, something which many people have been doing but it makes it more important for us all to do.