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Taxi drivers stage stoppage for hunger-striking colleague refused invalidity pension by State
August 15, 2001 By Vivion Kilfeather

SEVERAL taxi drivers staged a three-hour stoppage yesterday in support of their colleague Don Flanagan who has entered his 31st day on hunger strike in protest at being refused an invalidity pension. 
During the strike, taxi drivers attended Mass in Dublinís Mount Argus Church celebrated by a lifelong friend of Mr Flanaganís, Fr John Craven.

A frail-looking Mr Flanagan was brought to the Church in a wheelchair. He has already lost two stone and his eyesight is deteriorating. He is also suffering from kidney problems. After the Mass, he was assisted to his feet by Fr Craven and his son, Ian - making a brief address in which he criticised the Department for the fact that because he was a self-employed person he was unable to get disability allowance despite having suffered a stroke last year.

A diabetic, Don Flanagan has been surviving on Diet 7Up for the past month and pledged yesterday he would continue his protest, until the death if needs be. 

He fell short by about 48 PRSI contributions for a disability benefit, and neither did he have the contributions necessary for an invalidity pension.

He then applied for a disability allowance, which is means tested, and, because his wifeís income was taken into account, he failed there as well. 

However, it is understood a Department of Social Welfare official has been in contact with the family again and there is a possibility that if his wife is not currently employed she will be entitled to £96.50p as a carerís allowance.

There was some hope last night that the latest compromise may yet lead to Mr Flanagan calling off his hunger strike.

Mr Vinnie Kearns, vice-president of the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation, said his 3,300 members were supporting Mr Flanagan in his demands to be treated justly.


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