The travelling public “urgently needs” a permanent and dedicated Garda public transport unit, the National Bus & Rail Union (NBRU) has said.
Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, said it appears that “not a day goes by without yet another assault occurring on our public transport system”.
Mr O’Leary was speaking after a man (26) was assaulted while on a late-night bus home in Dublin city early on Sunday in a suspected homophobic attack.
He said although there had been much support from politicians across the political spectrum on the need for such a Garda unit, “they have yet to legislate for its establishment”.
“Quite apart from the absolute necessity to ensure that there are consequences for those thugs that are wreaking havoc across various modes of transport, the move towards encouraging increased public transport travel will falter,” Mr O’Leary said.
“This comes at a time when the Government’s own Climate Action Plan contains proposals to increase daily travel journeys by 500,000 by 2030.
“The type of viciousness witnessed during the assault on an innocent passenger last Saturday night on Dublin Bus, would hardly encourage more of our citizens to migrate towards public transport,” Mr O’Leary said.
“It has long since passed time that our politicians acted on their own words of support and move to establish a dedicated Garda public transport division.”
Mark Sheehan, from southwest Dublin, had been out socialising last Saturday night in the George nightclub on Dame Street with three friends, celebrating two of their birthdays.
While taking a late night bus home with his friends, Mr Sheehan was assaulted by a young man on the bus, after being called a “f****t” by a group of men.
Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart said he was fed up waiting for the Government to establish a dedicated service. “I’m growing increasingly impatient at the delay in a proper Government response to this,” the Dublin South West TD told Newstalk’s Hard Shoulder.
“What we need to get to is a dedicated transport police, so that whether you and I — or anybody of any age or gender or race — is open to the possibility, a random possibility, that there may be a Garda onboard.”
Mr Lahart also said private security firms, such as those used on the Luas or Irish Rail, were not the answer. “They do not have the power of detention and arrest as the gardaí do — the airport police have these powers,” he added.
“In London, they have London Transport Police, and in other cities they . . . have the same powers as gardaí, to detain and arrest. “What [is] going to happen is a fall-off in the confidence of people using public transport. This has to stop,” Mr Lahart said.
Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman, Martin Kenny, said the suspected homophobic attack at the weekend was “of deep concern”.
“The fact that this attack happened on a Dublin Bus once again underlines the need to establish a transport policing system,” he said.
“Last November, I raised the issues facing staff and commuters using public transport with the Minister for Justice. At the time, the Minister maintained that there was no need for a dedicated transport policing unit to serve public transport.
“Since then, we have seen a further deterioration in the conditions faced on some services by staff and passengers.”