Newry man in “gay kiss” row accepts taxi firm’s apology

March 10, 2014

A Newry man who was ordered out of a Belfast taxi for sharing a peck on the cheek with his male friend last Tuesday night has said he accepts the apology from the taxi firm involved and will not bring the matter any further.

Queen’s University student Mark McLoughlin, who describes himself as bisexual, took his story to the national media last week after he and his friend were ordered out of the cab on their way to a Belfast nightclub.

Speaking to Wendy Austin on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback show last Thursday morning, Mark explained how he had taken the cab with his friend Stuart and two female friends to travel from student halls at Elms Village to the well known gay club, the Kremlin in the city centre.

“Stuart leaned over the in back seat and kissed me on the cheek and neck, and the taxi driver saw it through his rear view mirror and told us to stop,” Mr McLoughlin said.

Much to the shock and amazement of his passengers, the Fonacab driver stopped on the Malone Road, swore at the young men and told them to get out.  Mark said he and his friends were “stunned” by the driver’s reaction.

“We said: ‘Are you serious?’ And he said: ‘Yes, I’m not having that in my car’.”

“So we just got out and left and stood at the side of the road and flagged down another taxi, but we rang Fonacab.”

Mark told the radio programme he had never encountered this sort of reaction before and said the kiss was between good friends and certainly nothing “erotic.”  He added that his two female friends who were also travelling in the taxi were “very upset” by the incident with one in particular “crying” over what she had witnessed.

The student admitted that the Fonacab employee who answered his complaint call had condemned the behaviour and promised to ring him back the next morning.  Mark confirmed they had contacted him as promised and apologised for the behaviour of their driver, who they said was facing disciplinary action.

Fonacab is one of the biggest taxi fleets in Belfast and, ironically, the firm recently sponsored Belfast Pride, a gay rights festival in the city.

In a statement, a Fonocab spokesperson said: “Fonacab is aware of an alleged incident taking place and we are continuing to conduct an internal investigation into this matter. We have spoken to the customer and have apologised if any offence has been caused.

“However, as this investigation is on-going, it would be unfair to comment in any more detail. We certainly would not condone this type of behaviour in any circumstance and would not tolerate this within our organisation.”

The firm added that it is “totally committed to encouraging equality and diversity and eliminating discrimination in our role as an employer and a supplier of taxi services to all those living in our community”.

“Breaches of our internal policy are taken very seriously and as a sponsor and supporter of Belfast Pride, we have liaised fully with the organisation regarding this particular incident.”

The Newry student told Talkback he was “more or less happy” with how his complaint had been dealt with and said he did not set out to “demonise” Fonacab but wanted to highlight their “unfortunate experience with this particular driver.” He said he had sought advice from the Equality Commission Northern Ireland but was satisfied with Fonacab’s response.