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Passing the buck on establishing a much-needed transport police force sends the wrong signal

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it's not up to the Government to introduce a transport police. Photo: Colin Keegan

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it's not up to the Government to introduce a transport police. Photo: Colin Keegan

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it's not up to the Government to introduce a transport police. Photo: Colin Keegan

Town planners in the great cities of the world have long concluded that if you provide good alternatives for public transport, you won’t have traffic problems.

Here, public transport has yet to reach a degree of penetration or reliability to give people the confidence to leave their cars at home, despite compelling environmental and cost incentives for doing so.

While we may be some way out from developing public transport infrastructure to optimal levels, this is no excuse for not guaranteeing the safety and protection of passengers.

It has been said that those who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle, and more time on the buses.

This goes especially for politicians. Had Tánaiste  Leo Varadkar done so a little more often then he might not be so quick to pass the buck on a decision on whether there ought to be a dedicated transport police.

When asked, he dismissed the notion, saying such a question would be a matter “for the Garda Commissioner rather than the Government”.

Deflecting the issue after a number of violent attacks on passengers was disingenuous. “I think we can all agree that what we would like to see is an increased Garda presence on public transport at bus and train stations, and also increased security provided by the companies as well,” he said.

The Tánaiste’s deflection of the issue after recent attacks is disingenuous

But if the Government has such concerns about security it behoves it to act on these.

As Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, said, it appeared that “not a day goes by without yet another assault occurring on our public transport system”.

This puts an intolerable strain on staff, and it makes potential passengers think twice about using these services, especially at night time.

The hands-off approach makes no sense. After all, the Government’s own Climate Action Plan contains proposals to increase daily public travel journeys by 500,000 by 2030.

And, as Mr O’Leary points out, the kind of vicious assaults that have happened recently are more likely to deter than encourage people from using the bus or train.

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Regrettably, An Garda Síochána has also said it is not considering setting up a specialised public transport police unit at the moment.

If people are being targeted or feeling threatened, there must be an onus on the Garda to respond.

If it is not prepared to countenance the setting up of a designated transport unit then it must at least provide a greater Garda presence to help allay fears,

Levels of anti-social and thuggish behaviour are becoming intolerable.

The presence of private security firms used on the Luas and by Irish Rail is reassuring but staff have neither arrest nor detention powers.

One wonders how badly things have to deteriorate before either the Garda or the Government recognise the degree of public anxiety there is over the issue?


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