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Gardaí are ‘not considering the establishment of a transport police unit’

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Calls for dedicated garda unit to police public transport.

Calls for dedicated garda unit to police public transport.

Mark is recovering from his ordeal

Mark is recovering from his ordeal

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Calls for dedicated garda unit to police public transport.

Garda management have confirmed that there are currently no plans to establish a dedicated division for public transport.

In a statement released this afternoon, An Garda Síochána said the force: “Proactively engages with transport operators, including the National Transport Authority, Irish Rail (DART and InterCity rail) and Transdev Ireland (Luas) to provide a co-ordinated garda presence on public transport, to prevent and tackle anti-social behaviour.

“All incidents reported to An Garda Síochána are fully investigated, with a pro-active arrest policy and prosecuted where possible.

“An Garda Síochána is not considering the establishment of a transport police unit at the moment.”

It comes as the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) reiterated its call for a dedicated garda transport division following recent assaults on drivers and passengers on public transport. 

Mark Sheehan (26) celebrated his friend’s birthday in The George nightclub on Dame Street on Sunday night. He was travelling home by bus with his friends when a when a group of younger males got on the bus and started to mock they and use “homophobic slurs”.

Mr Sheehan was later assaulted by one of the young men and spent six hours in hospital as a result.

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Mark is recovering from his ordeal

Mark is recovering from his ordeal

Mark is recovering from his ordeal

NBRU Assistant General Secretary Tom O’Connor said incidents like the one Mr Sheehan described are far too common across bus and rail services. 

"We’ve seen quite a number of incidents over the past weeks across the network, especially on Bus Éireann and across the rail,” he said.

"Unfortunately this type of behaviour is becoming more violent and resulting in serious injuries… In the last number of weeks, we’ve had five drivers assaulted, physical assaults, Some of them have ended up in hospital.”

Discussing details of the five drivers who were assaulted recently, Mr O’Connor said the incidents took place at Dublin Airport, Dublin city centre, Crosshaven Co Cork, Navan Co Meath and in Galway. 

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said when a fight breaks out or if someone is attacked on a bus or train service, the protocol is for the driver to “not get involved”.

"The instruction from the union and the company is the driver or the staff member is not to get involved. They’re public transport workers, they’re not bouncers or security,” he said. 

"That’s why the garda public transport division is needed, to make people feel safe… 71pc of trips are still made by private car, how are we going to dissuade people to move from their car to public transport if you don’t feel safe?”

Mr O’Connor said if someone witnesses an assault, they should inform the driver, who can contact central control, or the gardaí directly. 

He argued that public order incidents are a “societal problem” and said while a dedicated garda division could not police all services, the establishment of the unit would still make people “think twice” before committing a crime. 

“The same hotspots come up in Navan, in Limerick, in Cork, in some of the bus routes in Dublin – the 27, the 40, the northside of the Dart, we know the intercity routes. The NTA are currently spending billions on Bus Connect Ireland and Dart Plus. All that investment is for nought if we can’t encourage people to use public transport,” he added.

"The voters, they’re obviously tired of the behaviour on the buses. That poor gentleman that was attacked [Mark Sheehan], he’s somebody’s son. It’s not a stat anymore, it’s real people getting hurt out there and the people that we elect to Dáil Éireann are responsible to put a stop to it.”

Meanwhile, Independent Dublin City Councillor Nial Ring said he was verbally abused on a Dublin Bus recently. 

"It was a Friday night and a chap got on the bus and he recognised me and he was extremely aggressive, to the point that a friend of mine who was getting off the bus said to the driver ‘you should call the guards’,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.

"In fairness to him, the incident didn’t escalate but I did see a garda car pulling up behind the bus as I got off. I just said to the lads there was no issue. I will give the chap who attacked me verbally credit, he did write to me the following week absolutely apologising.”

Speaking on the same programme Fianna Fáil Dublin TD Jim O’Callaghan said his party wants to see the introduction of a garda public transport division pilot project.

"We had very helpful discussions with the NBRU. They informed us there’s a number of high-risk, high-profile routes at certain times of the day and the evening that you would particularly target,” he said.

"You wouldn’t need huge numbers of gardaí, we’d like to see it rolled-out as a pilot project to begin with and let’s target a number of routes just to give the travellers on those routes a sense of security and safety when they’re travelling throughout the day or night.”

However, Councillor Ring said despite his recent experience, he believes there should be more gardaí on the streets and not on public transport.

"I don’t believe it’s a good use of garda resources to have them sitting on a Luas,” he added.


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