Things aren't looking good for Uber's ridesharing plans in Ireland

Leading political parties don’t support changing taxi regulations.

By Killian Woods Reporter, Fora

IT LOOKS LIKE Uber have few allies on any side of politics for launching its flagship ridesharing service in Ireland.

Since the e-hailing service launched, Irish taxi regulations have stopped Uber’s plans to provide peer-to-peer carpooling as part of its app.

The concept has drawn criticism internationally due to safety concerns about unvetted drivers offering paid lifts to the public and the potential of ridesharing to disrupt an already over-competitive taxi market.

When opening their new Limerick office last month, Uber management admitted it faced some resistance to its ridesharing plans, but were confident of brokering a deal after the upcoming election.

However, at a private transport forum organised by Hailo Ireland, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe was asked about a meeting in which Uber allegedly told drivers it had been assured by the government it would get the green light to roll out ridesharing services.

Donohoe said he had “given no such assurances” to Uber, with other political representatives from the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, and the Social Democrats also stating their opposition to ridesharing.

“My current view in relation to the regulation of the taxi sector is the regulatory framework that we have in place at the moment we should keep,” Donohoe said.

“As things stand at the moment, I don’t have any proposal to change that and I’ve given (Uber) no such assurances.”

Uber Ireland general manager Kieran Harte confirmed the government had given no assurances it could launch ridesharing services in Ireland.

“It would be a dream come true if I had been given that kind of guarantee,” he said.

“Our discussions came to a standstill a month before the election and we’re waiting to see what the outcome of the election is.

“We were heartened to see that there was some sharing economy inputs in Fine Gael’s manifesto and a commitment to look at hackney reform.”

Open to change

Despite repeating his reluctance to change taxi regulations, Donohoe told the forum he will still listen to proposals from Uber about expanding its services in Ireland.

“If somebody were to come to me with new and different proposals to challenge what I’ve said, I’d meet them, I’d do it in a transparent manner, and I’ll tell everyone what I’m doing. But I have absolutely given no assurances to anybody.”