A young man who was assaulted in an alleged homophobic attack during a late-night bus journey in Dublin city over the weekend has said the ordeal was “vicious”.
Mark Sheehan (26) had been out celebrating his friend’s birthday in The George nightclub on Dame Street on Sunday night.
Mr Sheehan said the group decided to call it a night and make their way home on Dublin Bus.
He said they were sitting upstairs when a group of younger males got on the bus and started to mock him and his friends and use “homophobic slurs”.
“I had been out celebrating with my friends and we had been at the George, so we were dressed up and having a great time and it all took place after. So, when we had left, both myself and three of my friends went and got on the bus home and we got four seats upstairs,” he said.
“It was the next stop then where it really filled up, the whole upper floor of the bus was packed. My friend had a crown on his head; we had gotten him a crown for his birthday, and immediately they took notice of this and were poking fun at it.
“They were trying to grab it off his head, they were using homophobic slurs. I turned around. My friend who they were saying this to I could tell he was immediately so anxious.
“I was turning to just try and say as subtly and calmly as possible to the guys that were saying this, ‘ah lads it’s just his birthday and we’re just heading home’.
“In no way do I want to be aggressive or confrontational, even though they’re being horrible to us, they had already called us names at that point.
“I’m trying to be calm doing this, but that just prompted them to say more, they were mocking my voice, they were using slurs. My friends and I put we kind of all just agreed to put our earphones in to drown out the noise,” he told RTÉ’s Drivetime.
“It didn’t necessarily work, they did continue to just hurl insults at us for the duration of the journey. It got to a point where my friends and I were saying let’s just get off the bus.
“I started putting my earbuds into the case and I turn around and I said to them, ‘would you ever grow up and act your age’. I could see there were people on the bus around me who were visibly upset.
“Next thing I know my hand is booted, he kicked my hand, and my earphones case went up across the bus floor. I jumped up to try catch them, and so I turned around and said, ‘why did you just do that, I did nothing to you’.
“I got down onto the floor and started looking under the seats, I was down on my hands and knees. They were just hurling insults and his friend leaped up out of his seat and gets right up into my face saying, ‘he’s going to kill ya’.
“They were younger than me, so I just thought there’s no point in even trying to reason. I started walking up towards the front of the bus, and I said, ‘that was disgraceful, you should be ashamed’.
“Next thing I know I’m standing halfway down the stairs and looking down at my shoes completely covered in blood. I immediately thought I had been punched, and I looked up and he was leaning over the banister looking at me.
“My head had gone hazy, my vision had kind of gone for a second. I had been headbutted. My friend said I was headbutted twice. My forehead as well as a large portion of my nose is completely bruised.
Mr Sheehan said spent six hours in hospital following the incident and is now in “a lot” of pain.
“The swelling is too aggressive at the moment to tell if it’s a fracture or if it’s broken,” he said.
“I have a constant migraine. When I was in A&E a police officer arrived and she took an account of what happened.
“It’s unfortunate, I wish I could say it wasn’t like this, but it feels like - I don’t know if it’s since Covid – that there’s this pent-up anger and frustration that’s coming out of people and they’re just a lot more aggressive than I ever remember.
“I went to school openly gay and so I was bullied, and I was attacked growing up, but this was by far the most vicious from the antagonising at the start to the attack at the end.”
Mr Sheehan also posted an account of what happened to him on social media, uploading photographs of his bloodied and swollen face, and his blood-stained footwear.
He wrote: “No one intervened and the driver took off with the attacker still on the bus. I am completely shook-up by this. I spent the following six hours in the hospital. Gardaí have taken the report and are trying to get the footage from the bus CCTV.
“I don't understand why they singled us out and antagonised us so much.
"After a sleepless night, reading all the messages helped me not to spiral. I am very sore and swollen. My mind is racing constantly and analysing what I could have done differently,” he added.
A Garda spokesman has confirmed that gardaí are investigating an assault of a man in his 20s on Firhouse Road, South Dublin, at 4am on Sunday.
“The injured party was taken to Tallaght University Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. No arrests have been made at this time,” he said.
There are a number of CCTV cameras on each Dublin Bus vehicle and it is believed that high quality footage from these will form part of the investigation into the attack.
A spokesman for Dublin Bus confirmed it had received a complaint about the incident, which he said was being fully investigated.
There have been fresh calls for the establishment of a dedicated transport police in the wake of the apparent homophobic attack.
Sinn Féin TD and the party's spokesperson on Justice, Martin Kenny, reiterated his calls for the Justice Minister to establish a transport policing system within An Garda Síochána without any further delay.
He said: “The fact that this attack happened on a Dublin Bus once again underlines the need to establish a transport policing system.
"It is simply not acceptable any longer for the Government to sit on their hands while this continues to fester. If we are going to encourage more people to use our public transport links, we must ensure that everyone feels safe when doing so."
Senator Regina Doherty said the recent growth in violent anti-social behaviour on Irish streets, particularly in Dublin, emphasised the need for increased Garda visibility, adding that Garda recruitment figures set six years ago are not sufficient.
The Fine Gael senator said: “There has been a growth in violent anti-social behaviour on our streets in recent months, and here in Dublin it is very clear to see. We are hearing near-weekly reports of random attacks on individuals – including hate-motivated assaults – as well as organised fights between gangs of thugs.
"It should never be the case that our people should be afraid to walk the streets of our towns and cities, nor that there should be ‘no-go’ areas.
“We need to nip this in the bud, and we need to do it now.
“We need to ensure that the visibility of Gardaí on the ground matches need in our cities and towns.”
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses or for anyone with any information related to the assault to contact Tallaght garda station on 01 666 6000, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any garda station.