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Paschal Mooney speaking in the Seanad this afternoon Oisín Ó Dubhláin/YouTube

I won’t choose taxis driven by a foreign driver, says Fianna Fáil Senator

Pascal Mooney apologised for his comments after he told the Seanad that “obvious non-national” drivers often don’t know directions around Dublin city.

Updated 19:35

A FIANNA FÁIL Senator has said he will not get into a taxi driven by someone who is not from Ireland.

Senator Paschal Mooney told the Seanad chamber this afternoon that “obvious non-national” drivers often don’t know “one end of the street from the other”. He said that he was not being racist but that he now chooses “local taxi drivers” instead because they are more likely to know their way around Dublin.

He later apologised and withdrew his remarks, saying that he had been misinterpreted.

One TD  said Mooney’s comments were discriminatory and questioned how he can judge someone’s nationality through a car window.

The Senator had told the chamber that there was “stronger than anecdotal evidence that there are people driving taxis around this city who don’t know one end of the street from the other”.

I’ve been in taxis and I have to say, and I’m not in any way being discriminatory here, but it’s nearly always non-nationals. And it’s got to the point where, quite frankly, and I make no apologies for it, that I will now go to a local taxi driver in preference to somebody who’s a non-national-  an obvious non-national, and that has nothing to do with the colour of their skin or anything of that nature.

The Senator had been speaking on the Taxi Regulation Bill which was being debated in the Seanad this afternoon. He also noted that drivers in cities such as London have to “jump through hoops” in order to get their licence and said standards are far higher than in Ireland.

Paschal Mooney was given permission to make a personal statement in the Seanad this evening and apologised for his earlier remarks.

He said that he acknowledged the contribution that people from other countries had made to Ireland and reiterated that his comments had not been racist. He told the chamber:

It’s come to my attention that remarks I made about non-nationals during my contribution on the Taxis Regulation Bill 2013 earlier today have been misinterpreted.
I wish to unreservedly withdraw the remarks and apologise for any offence caused. I fully acknowledge and respect the contribution of non-nationals to the life of Ireland, and I clearly stated at the time that my remarks should not have been interpreted as discriminatory to anyone.

Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis questioned exactly how Senator Mooney could tell the nationality of drivers. In a statement this afternoon, Ellis said:

There are people of many different nationalities and cultures working in Ireland in all different sectors. They are part of our communities and economies and Paschal Mooney would do well to remember that before he so callously judges them.
He said his discriminatory practice was not based on colour but I am intrigued as to how Senator Mooney has the ability to discern someone’s nationality through a car window. Regardless it is wrong to do this and wrong for a public representative to openly condone it.

The Integration Centre condemned the Senator’s comments. The organisation’s CEO, Killian Forde, said that what Mooney said was “the very definition of racism.”

Rhetoric such as that spoken by Senator Rooney today in a house of public representatives promotes negative attitudes towards the immigrant community.

Paschal Mooney has been a Senator for all but three years since 1987 and is currently Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Social Protection in the Seanad. He was a broadcaster on RTÉ for a number of years before he entered politics.

His comments come less than a week after a Fianna Fáil councillor was strongly criticised for saying Travellers should be segregated from society.

- Additional reporting by Paul Hyland

Read: Are some Dublin taxi drivers using covert signal of ‘Irishness’? >

In numbers: How much would we save by abolishing the Seanad?

Read: FF councillor criticised for anti-Traveller comments >

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