Minister’s Facebook post ‘not appropriate’ - N.W.T.P.

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan.
Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan.

North West Taxi Propreitors (N.W.T.P.) has critiscised Environment Minister, Mark H. Durkan, for using social media to ask people for their opinions on the introduction of taxi meters in Derry.

In a statement sent to local media outlets on Monday evening, N.W.T.P. said it “did not think it appropriate” for Mr. Durkan to engage with people in such a way.

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan's, post on Facebook last week.

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan's, post on Facebook last week.

“The taxi industry has waited years for the introduction of taxi meters and now it appears that ‘can’ is about to be kicked further down the road if we are to heed the Minister’s unorthodox step of going on Facebook to get feedback,” said a N.W.T.P. spokesperson.

“North West Taxi Proprietors wants clear unambiguous information from Minister Mark H Durkan.

The local taxi industry has been issued with implementation dates for taxi meters and regulated fares, May 31, 2016. Does that date still stand?,” asked the spokesperson.

The N.W.T.P. spokesperson went on to accuse Mr. Durkan of ‘flip-flopping’ over the plan to introduce meters in Derry.

The Minister appears to be flip flopping and is ready to do a U turn on the implementation of taxi meters after reading some social medi

N.W.T.P. spokesperson

“The Minister appears to be flip flopping and is ready to do a U turn on the implementation of taxi meters after reading some social media.

“Extensive consultation has been carried out on the issue of taxi meters and the overwhelming majority agreed with implementation. “The Minister has set and announced a date and people are investing large sums of money in preparation of the date.”

Last week Mr. Durkan used his own personal Facebook profile to ask taxi drivers for their thoughts on pushing the agreed date of May 31, 2016 back by a couple of months.

“Minister Mark H Durkan has overseen an implementation process which has been at best messy and unclear and now he is personally adding to confusion by offering to change dates,” the spokesperson continued.

“N.W.T.P. is aware that the general public is concerned and there is conflicting rumours out there as to what the actual increase will be locally and being on the wrong side of public concern isn’t good for a politician going into an election but we do not think it appropriate for Minister Mark H Durkan to use Facebook for scientific consultation given that that has been already completed by the department on the issue of taxi meters.

“We await confirmation of the date for implementing taxi meters given the confusion caused by the Minister’s comments,” the spokesperson concluded.

Minister Durkan responded to the critiscism by questioning the motivation behind the N.W.T.P. statement.

“I think this contribution from N.W.T.P. is strange in that it mentions an election. Could it be politically motivated? I certainly hope not but I do know that regardless of their views on this issue, drivers appreciated the fact that I asked them what they thought and have listened to them - something that N.W.T.P. could learn from.”

Mr. Durkan defended his decision to ask taxi drivers for their opinions and said as a result of doing so he believes that many had not been properly consulted.

“Since 2007, N.W.T.P. have been to the fore in pushing through and forward the legislation that has led to the mandatory installation of meters in taxis. Therefore, I am surprised that, if they are genuinely confused about the implementation date, that they did not lift the phone and ring me or speak to one of the D.O.E. officials with whom they have liaised so closely over a number of years on this issue.

“I outlined my position on this issue quite clearly in Friday’s ‘Journal‘. Having received some representations in favour of delaying the date of implementation beyond May 31, I decided to canvass the opinions of more people, particularly taxi drivers. One thing that has been very apparent over the past few weeks is that ordinary drivers do not feel that they have been consulted thoroughly on this legislation - largely due, I’m sure, to the length of time that has lapsed since it was passed in 2008 - long before I was an MLA, nevermind minister.”

Minister Durkan added: “This statement on behalf of N.W.T.P. regurgitates many of the points I made myself in my recent article. I recognise and value the work of taxi drivers and can’t for a second understand why anyone would have a problem with me seeking their opinions on something that is going to affect them more than it will anyone else. I asked for views via Facebook. I did not have time for a lengthy and laborious consultation. It is fair to say that overwhelmingly those views were to proceed with the planned date and that is what I am doing.”

Minister Durkan confirmed in early February this year that taxi drivers working in Derry would have to have a meter installed by May 31, 2016.