Taxis drivers in street protest

The cavalcade stopped at the DoE headquarters

Scores of taxi drivers have protested against advertisements warning the public against unlicensed cabs.

The taxi drivers said the campaign showed them in the wrong light.

The cavalcade stopped at the Department of the Environment headquarters in Belfast city centre, where a letter of protest was handed over.

The drivers said they were concerned that a new TV and billboard campaign branded them as "uninsured, murderers and rapists".

The new drive to crack down on illegal taxi drivers was announced last month.

From 1 November, all licensed taxis will be required to display taxi licence plates, making them easier for the public to recognise.

It is part of a plan to exclude the estimated 2,000 illegal drivers in the province.

It is the new advertising campaign used to support the crackdown which the drivers are protesting about.

William McCausland from the taxi providers association said he was worried the ads would affect trade.

The DoE said the ads had been misinterpreted

"It portrays the industry in a negative light," he said.

"All of the people in our association who work for us are respectable, professional, law-abiding operators trying to work in a professional manner.

"Unfortunately this advertisement, if it is taken on face value... you see a sign saying 'mugger' or 'drunk' - it is not really saying this is the sort of industry you want to be involved with or would want to ring to get a cab home."

However, Brendan Magee of the DoE said it had been holding talks with taxi drivers and the ads had been misinterpreted.

"If anyone actually considers the advertising, you will see the whole purpose is to help the travelling public and identifying legal taxis.

"By doing that, we believe that the genuine trade will have absolutely nothing to fear.

"In fact, they will gain by this advertising campaign."

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