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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 26 April, 2019
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Puking passengers and teens "bombed out of their tree": Taxi-drivers tell their St Patrick's Day stories

It can be a lucrative day, but some drivers just don’t want to work it. No wonder, really, when you hear some of their stories…

THE CENTRE OF the capital – for many Dubliners – is not somewhere they’d choose to spend their St Patrick’s Day.

Reports of arrests for public disorder, assaults and other major and minor offences often generate headlines for days, after the 17th itself.

Last year, as you may recall, video footage of a man being kicked in the head in the centre of town created a media storm – and a number of teenagers were detained. Back in 2011 – fifteen teens under the legal drinking age were arrested in just one area of south Dublin.

TheJournal.ie dropped by the always-busy St Stephen’s Green rank in the middle of the afternoon last Tuesday, to see what the city’s taxi drivers made of the whole occasion.

Would they be back behind the wheel next Tuesday afternoon? Or had they decided to forgo the potential earnings boost?

Paddy’s Day – typically – is one of the most lucrative times of the year for taxis in the city.

Several drivers, however, had serious misgivings about working it….

Budget Day 2009 Source: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

‘Troublesome’

“I generally do work it but it is a troublesome day there’s no doubt about it,” veteran taxi-man Noel Dolan says – before proceeding to tell a story about “worst year” he had, on St Patrick’s day duty.

“It was about three or four years ago.

I came out to work when I thought the parade would be kind of over – about half two or three-ish – and picked up my first fare on the quays, on Bachelor’s Walk.

“A guy, an English visitor, wanted to go out to his hotel in Clondalkin.

I only got to the other side of the quays, when he puked up on me, and all over the car.

It was (if you’re not quite getting the picture) a “serious, serious heave,” Dolan says.

“It was just a question of getting him out of the car and me going home. I didn’t get any jobs that day. I had to go home.”

Such cases are “part and parcel of the game”.

But you don’t expect it that early in the day.

“The soiling charge now is €140 – but most times you’ve very little chance of picking that up. You try and get it back the next day.”

However, Dolan says he will be hitting the streets as usual on Tuesday next – “in the afternoon, when the parade is over”.

Snow Scenes The Big Freeze Part 2 Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Ahead of him in the queue, Frank Phelan – who has 35 years on the clock as a cab driver – says he hasn’t been out on St Patrick’s Day since the early days of the Celtic Tiger. “Ten or twelve years at least”.

I haven’t worked it for years. And I believe from some of the lads that do work it that it hasn’t changed much – in fact, if anything it’s gotten more and more ridiculous.

The day he decided to throw in the towel “somebody got in the car at 2′clock and they were mouldy. Mouldy.”

“I said that’s it, I’m going home. If it’s that bad this early – I’ve had enough of this.

Now… I don’t come out at all.

‘Messy’

Out cleaning his windscreen, Tony Dalton says he’ll probably be out working – but might head home a little earlier than usual.

St Patricks Night, I would generally work until 7 o’clock. Sometimes, it depends. I’ll get a feel for the day depending on how bad it looks.

“But it does get messy.

Usually it gets messy at around half six or seven – or maybe a bit before it.

Earlier on, people might have “had a few” but are in good form. “Not too messy”.

“But yeah, I’ve certainly had a couple of passengers that you would certainly wonder how they would survive the rest of the day. They’d be heading into town maybe – and they’d already had quite a few.

I’ve had one or two that have been drunk before the parade is even finished.

On the other hand, he points out – March 17 can be one “one of the busiest days of the year”.

“It is lucrative. You’d be going all day.”

Saint Patricks Day Parades Festivals Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Finally, another full-time driver “probably won’t” be out looking for fares next week.

“I don’t think I’ve worked it for the last few years,” Patrick McGinley says, with a shake of the head.

“Too messy. Too messy.”

The big thing is too many young kids bombed out of their tree. And I mean young kids – fourteen to sixteen.

“You can see them walking around with the blue bags you know exactly what’s in it – and that’s from early in the day.

So was there one particular incident that made him think ‘no, I’ve had enough?’

“Well… I saw a gang of youngfellas – over on the corner here – latch on to another young fella, and kick the crap out of him.”

This was in the middle of the afternoon – while it was still bright anyway. It wasn’t late at night or anything like that.

On tenderhooks

When he did work, he was often ”on tenderhooks” waiting for people to throw-up in the cab.

I find it’s an aggressive day. Particularly in speech, but sometimes the speech converts into physical stuff.

While there’s plenty of money on offer for those willing to work, “it’s a frightening day, and I just don’t want to work it”.

Young people in particular are out drinking from early in the afternoon. “You don’t see that many from 30 or 40 up, bombed out of their tree. The odd one.”

“It’s a culture really among young people.

“I was actually talking to someone about it this morning – a lady, and she’s actually afraid to come into town on Paddy’s Day. She’d love to come into the parade and all that, but she hasn’t done so for about 20 years.

While he worked on the day around 20 years ago, “you start thinking ‘is it worth it?’”.

All it takes is one guy to puke in the car and whatever you’re going to make on the day is well gone.

Read: “I think they should stay away” – Minister on St Patrick’s Day drunkeness

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