Fine parents whose children 'run riot' and engaged in anti-social behaviour, says Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea
Former minister in call to fine parents over bad behaviour
Parents whose children "run riot", tormenting neighbours by engaging in anti-social behaviour, should face fines or have social welfare payments cut to tackle the issue, according to a former defence minister.
Willie O'Dea, Fianna Fail's spokesperson on social protection, said parents must take responsibility for children making life a misery for elderly people and families in communities across the country.
"Some parents are allowing their children to behave in such a way that they are out of control. They should take some responsibility for that. They should be penalised in some shape or form, either through fines or having their social welfare stopped," he told the Sunday Independent.
It comes as Luas operators Transdev revealed its private security teams are being forced to respond to incidents involving groups of children as young as nine at tram stops in south Dublin.
"An area south of Sandyford on the Luas Green Line can at times be one of the most problematic areas," a spokeswoman said.
"Kids aged nine to 15 years can be a most troublesome group," she added. "Loud and fearless, they don't understand their behaviour is upsetting others. Security's role here is to move them on, to be customer-focused, friendly and authoritative."
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The National Bus and Rail Union said the level of anti-social behaviour has reached crisis point following a rise in crimes linked to anti-social behaviour in the past year.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has previously called on parents to do more to bring children into line.
Gardai are working to address the issue and will meet with public transport workers at training days, conferences and other events to help them deal with anti-social behaviour.
However, Mr O'Dea said the ultimate responsibility for loutish behaviour by young people must lie with their parents. He has called for them to face sanctions.
"If there is evidence where a parent doesn't know where their child is and what they are getting up to, especially in cases of anti-social behaviour, then action needs to be taken," he said. "Parents have a huge role in this and they should be forced to act when they otherwise don't."
Figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show there were more than 1,100 incidents of anti-social behaviour, public disorder, theft and aggressive behaviour on Luas services last year. There were a further 279 similar incidents in the first three months of this year.
A spokeswoman for Transdev said most journeys pass without incident because of its security arrangements but the company was disappointed by the number of racist episodes targeting staff.
"Transdev spends over €2.5m on security per year," she said. "The number of anti- social behaviour incidents is on the decrease. However, what is disappointing is the level of racial and verbal threats experienced by staff."
Bus Eireann has also expressed concern after gardai launched an investigation into an alleged racial assault on one of its drivers in Loughrea, Co Galway, over the Easter bank holiday weekend. The company said it was working with gardai and the driver on the matter. It has taken measures in recent years to protect staff and customers.
"All Bus Eireann's road passenger fleet has CCTV cameras. Bus drivers have two-way radio communication with staffed automatic vehicle location control centres, along with an emergency button for assistance," a spokeswoman said.
However, NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said recent incidents show further action is needed. He has previously called for the establishment of special garda units to police public transport but this has been ruled out by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
"The almost daily occurrence of physical and verbal assaults on frontline public transport staff needs to be recognised and indeed categorised as a crisis as this stage," said Mr O'Leary.
"It is simply unconscionable to think that bus drivers, train crews and station staff should have to wait for either themselves or one their colleagues to be seriously assaulted, or worse, before something is done."
Superintendent Kevin Daly, the senior officer in charge of community relations, said gardai were committed to investigating all incidents or crime.
"Any offending, which is perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on racial or other discrimination, will be investigated as a hate crime," he told the Sunday Independent.
Gardai have recently met Transdev staff to provide crime prevention advice and Supt Daly said this work would continue with the other transport operators "to reduce crime and combat racial incidents on the transport networks".