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Gardaí patrols to avoid new taxi attacks

GARDAÍ have set up extra patrols to halt an upsurge in attacks on taxi drivers in Dublin, in which guns and knives were used. At least six robberies of taxi drivers and hijackings of their cars have occurred in the last week alone. Taxi drivers have been left traumatised and some are considering not returning to work.

“I’m outraged that we have had no comment from any of our public representatives over this, as we have had six attacks over the last week,” said Vinnie Kearns of the National Taxi Drivers Union.

He said that many of his members have been attacked and that some have not been able to return to work. One taxi driver attacked last Thursday said he had picked up a girl who asked to be brought to the north side of Dublin.

“I pulled in to let her out and my side windows came in and I was told to get out of the car,” said Pat, who wished to remain anonymous.

He said a man ran at him and jumped into the car. “There was a lot of commotion. She started shouting at me. I went back to get my keys, put my hand through the window, but he took off.”

He said the car contained his night’s takings and his mobile phone and that he hadn’t decided if or when he would return to work.

Mr Kearns said that even where attackers are caught their case doesn’t come before the courts for 12 to 18 months. He said the union had met with Justice Minister Michael McDowell in November 2003 to discuss this issue and called on him to introduce heavier penalties for assaults on public servants, including taxi drivers.

“The minister has to send out a clear message that anyone who carries out an attack on a public servant, if caught, should be held in custody and brought before the courts the next day and receive hefty penalties,” he said.

Garda spokesperson Supt Kevin Donohoe said the increase in attacks was of concern and each incident was being investigated.

“The assistant commissioner in charge of the Dublin region is concerned and in the last number of days increased patrolling operations in key target areas..

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