Northern Ireland

Two men ordered out of Belfast taxi after gay kiss

Kremlin night club door sign
Image caption The group of friends had tried to take a taxi to Belfast's Kremlin nightclub, a well-known gay venue in the city centre

Two men have been ordered out of a taxi in Belfast after they kissed each other in the back seat of the cab.

It happened on Tuesday night, when the driver was taking a group of students to a gay nightclub in the city centre.

Mark McLoughlin, who describes himself as bisexual, said the driver objected and swore at them when his male friend kissed him on the cheek and neck.

The taxi firm, Fonacab, said it was investigating and "apologised if any offence has been caused".

The firm is one of Belfast's biggest taxi companies and has recently sponsored Belfast Pride, a gay rights festival in the city.

'Stunned'

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme, Mr McLoughlin said he was shocked when the driver forced them out and left them on the side of the road.

The Queen's University student had taken the cab with his friend Stuart and two female friends. The group was travelling from student halls at Elms Village to the Kremlin nightclub.

"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.

The student added that the driver stopped on the Malone Road and told them to get out.

"We were stunned. 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."

'Very upset'

Mr McLoughlin told the programme the kiss was between good friends and "wasn't anything erotic".

"I couldn't believe it in this day and age, over something so small."

He said the two women passengers who witnessed the incident were "very upset" and one began to cry.

The student said the person who answered his complaint call in Fonacab "condemned the behaviour and said that they would ring me back the next morning and apologise and sort it out."

In a statement, the firm 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.

'Equality'

"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."

Mr McLoughlin said it was "ironic" that he was evicted by a firm that had sponsored gay pride event, but added he was "more or less happy" with how it had dealt with his complaint.

"I am not trying to demonise Fonacab as I know it isn't at all a homophobic company, but rather letting people know of our unfortunate experience with this particular driver," he told the BBC.

"I don't think I'll take it much further because I know Fonacab, I know it's not what they are like. It was just that one person," Mr McLoughlin said.

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