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Lifeguard headbutted and council staff spat on while working for Dublin's local authorities

Dozens of assaults on council staff have been reported in recent years.
Jul 4th 2022, 12:05 AM 37,217 16

STAFF AT DUBLIN’S four local authorities have reported being headbutted, spat on and threatened with weapons during the course of their duties in the past five years.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act detail how council staff in Dublin City, Fingal, and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown were subjected to dozens of instances of verbal abuse and physical assaults since 2018.

Incidents recorded by the local authorities include reports of sexual harassment and attempts by members of the public to damage workers’ vehicles, as well as one individual being threatened with a syringe.

Dublin City Council staff reported the highest number of incidents, with 147 different instances of physical violence towards local authority staff recorded in the past five years.

Statistics released by the council show that more than half of the assaults recorded, 78, were reported by staff working for Dublin Fire Brigade.

An additional 31 assaults were reported by staff at the council’s environment and transportation department, which employs litter wardens. However, specific details of the type of staff or the nature of assaults were not provided by the council.

DCC Chief Executive Owen Keegan is reported to have told councillors last month that litter wardens working in the worst-polluted parts of the city were at risk of “serious assaults” if they challenged individuals who did not bin their rubbish.

Other staff at the council who experienced physical assaults included those working for the local authority’s housing and cultural environment departments.

In a statement, DCC said it “takes all such incidents very seriously and works to support the employee as best as possible”.

Meanwhile, staff at Fingal County Council also reported 54 assaults to the local authority in recent years.

The reported incidents, which date back to 2018, include a staff member being pushed off a bicycle, a lifeguard being headbutted by a member of the public, and a park ranger being forced to self-isolate for 14 days after being spat on and hit while closing a park.

Several incidents involving litter wardens were also reported to the council, including threats of physical violence and an incident where a member of the public confronted a warden in their vehicle after they were spotted littering.

In 2019, one Fingal employee had a leaf-blower stolen from them after being threatened with a lump hammer by a group of people.

Another incident in the same year saw a staff member physically assaulted by a motorist following an altercation on a road, during which the worker’s car keys were taken off them.

And earlier this year, an individual who provided online yoga classes through the council’s library services told the council that they had been subjected to sexual harassment online, while participants in the course were also targeted.

All incidents were investigated by the council, which followed up with enforcement and security measures, as well as contacting Gardaí in some instances.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for Fingal County Council condemned inappropriate behaviour towards council staff such as disruption of services, harassment, violence, and malicious damage.

“Fingal County Council require staff to report workplace incidents including those that involve violence and aggression in the workplace,” the spokesperson said.

“Each incident is investigated with recommendations issued to the staff member’s line manager, and to line managers where services to customers have been affected. 

“Incidents that warrant reporting to the appropriate authorities are forwarded on to An Garda Síochána or the Health & Safety Authority as appropriate.”

In contrast to Dublin and Fingal, just two incidents of physical violence against council staff were reported to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council over the same period.

A DLR water services employee was bitten by a dog in June 2018, while a housing department employee was verbally and physically assaulted at the council’s office in May of this year.

No records of assaults on local authority staff since 2018 could be found by South Dublin County Council, and the relevant FOI request was therefore refused.

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Stephen McDermott


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