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Dublin: 7°C Monday 21 September 2020
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'A girl of African origin had a banana rubbed into her face': NTA launches new anti-racism campaign

A new anti-racist campaign was launched at Heuston station where trains, the Luas, and Dublin Bus operate from.

One of the images that will be posted across the transport network in Ireland.
One of the images that will be posted across the transport network in Ireland.
Image: National Transport Authority

“THE ONE THAT shocked me the most was an elderly man who knocked on my door. I thought he wanted to ask me a question so I opened the hatch. He said to me: ‘I’m going to get you fired, you black bastard’.”

“I mean, I don’t know where that comes from,” Bode Olatunji said, as he recalled one of many incidents of racism he has experienced in his 16 years as a Luas driver in Dublin.

The National Transport Authority, with the support of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, launched a week-long public campaign this morning to highlight racism experienced by both staff and passengers on public transport in Ireland.

Posters made up of almost 900 commuter selfies will appear across the public transport network, including in train stations, at bus stops and on the side of Dublin bus.

It’s part of a nationwide effort to highlight the frequency of racist comments, harrassment and physical attacks occurring across the country.

bode t Bode Olatunji has been working as a Luas driver for 16 years. Source: Conor McCrave

“You see people jump out in front of your tram making monkey chants, giving you the middle finger and making all sorts of comments to you,” Olatunji said. 

I want people to understand that being black, or being white doesn’t mean I am better than you, it’s really about equality, and humanity and standing together as human beings.

Anti-racism campaigns such as the one launched today at Heuston station, where the Luas, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail operate services, have been running since 2012.

Olatunji said the incidence of these events in his time as a Luas driver have decreased but added, he is still almost certain to experience at least two incidences a month.

He remains hopeful that Ireland will eventually become a country where this type of discrimination does not exist.

“It is slowly getting better, very slowly, but I believe eventually we will get there. I just feel like we need to do more.

“When we first started we experienced it every week, now we get it maybe once or twice a month.”

‘Suggestive’

Teresa Buczkowska, Integration Coordinator with the Immigration Council of Ireland said she hears reports of racism on Ireland’s transport network on a regular basis.

“We are trying to send the message that we are all the same, we are altogether taking journeys on public transport, and we want to do it in a safe environment. We are sending a message in the posters that we are all coming together in one big, beautiful picture.

“People refuse to sit beside a person who is visibly diverse. Recently, I was talking to my intern, who is a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, and she was physically attacked on the bus. She was lucky because some of the other passengers stood up for her.

“Most of these incidences are verbal harassment… but many are acts of violence. One of the incidents reported to us a few years ago was about a girl of African origin who had a banana rubbed into her face, which is symbolic and very suggestive.”

Buckowska said one of the issues surrounding racism is that people don’t report it in fear that nothing will be done about it and it is a waste of time.

“We hear anecdotal evidence of racism and sometimes we get two at a time, then sometimes we’re months without them because people don’t report it.

Speaking at the launch today Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA said: “Racism has no place on public transport and will not be tolerated. By standing together with transport workers and operators, we can celebrate the growing diversity within Ireland’s public transport services.”

Commuters travelling through Heuston station this weekend can take a selfie in the on-site photo booth, and join in the campaign by sharing that selfie across social media.

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