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Government TDs 'must' deliver transport police following latest assault, says NBRU

It comes following a violent assault on a Dublin Bus last weekend.

The assault on Mark Sheehan happened on a Dublin Bus in the early hours of Sunday morning
The assault on Mark Sheehan happened on a Dublin Bus in the early hours of Sunday morning
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

POLITICAL LEADERS NEED to act on the latest assault on public transport and provide dedicated transport police before “something even more serious happens”, according to the union for bus and rail. 

A 26-year-old man was hospitalised with serious facial injuries after an unprovoked homophobic assault on a Dublin Bus in the early hours of Sunday morning while he was returning from a night out. 

Mark Sheehan, 26, had his earphones kicked out of his hands before being headbutted by a man having got on the bus with his friends shortly before 4am.

Responding to the assault, Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), told The Journal it was time for TDs who support a transport police unit to “turn their words into some action” and deliver legislation enacting the specialist group.

“Mark Sheehan was minding his own business. He wanted to go home peacefully and wasn’t left do that. He had the bravery to come out and tell people about what happened and I can only but admire him for having the bravery.

“But I am really frustrated because this has been raised again and again. I hope Mark Sheehan makes a full recovery but it’s a disgrace that a person can’t get onto a bus in Dublin or anywhere across the country – and it is happening across the country – and not have to put up with thuggery.”

mark sheehan A photo posted by Mark Sheehan following the assault

Gardaí have confirmed they are investigating the incident which took place on Firhouse Road.

O’Leary pointed to calls from Fianna Fáil and Green Party TDs yesterday, who support the measure for transport police, saying that they need to put pressure on their party leadership.

“There are politicians who sit on the back benches of government parties in Fianna Fáil and the Greens who are supporting calls for a educated transport unit, but it’s in their gift to legislate,” he said. 

“The reality is Mark Sheehan’ss assault last Sunday morning will be followed by another assault. My message is, are you waiting for something a lot more serious before you do the right thing by the travelling public?”

Yesterday, Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Martin Kenny said that when he raised the issue previously, the was told the National Transport Authority and the Department of Justice “feel there is no requirement for a unit of An Garda Síochána” to be dedicated to transport policing.

O’Leary said another aspect that shows the need for making public transport safer was the government’s climate targets.

“We’re trying to encourage people to migrate from the motorcar to public transport.

“By the government’s own targets, we need to increase journeys by 500,000 daily by 2030 -  how is that going to happen unless people can be assured that the journeys are safe.”

He added: “Whether we like it or not the future in this country has to be public transport.”

If a violent incident is taking place during a journey, bus drivers are not to intervene according to the NBRU.

“A bus driver does what it says on the tin: they drive a bus. It’s job that’s difficult enough as it is and a bus driver is not a bouncer and is not a guard,” O’Leary said.

“Our drivers can alert Central Control but even if they were to intervene, they do not have powers of arrest, powers to sanction and cannot bring people into court.”

 

Speaking this afternoon, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar condemned the attack and said people are entitled to feel safe on public transport.

However, he said the decision on a dedicated Garda unit for public transport “would be better” left to the Garda Commissioner.

“You want to encourage people to use public transport. It’s important that men and women and children feel safe and doing so,” he told reporters in Monaghan.

“Obviously any decision on whether there’d be a dedicated transport police would be better for the Garda Commissioner rather than the government.

“But I think we can all agree that what we’d like to see as an increase greater presence on public transport at most and train stations and also increased security provided by the companies as well. I think everyone can agree on that and that should be done.”

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