The National Transport Authority (NTA) has denied the need for a dedicated transport police unit after calls for increased Garda presence following a homophobic attack on a Dublin Bus last weekend.
26 year-old Mark Sheehan was returning home from a night out in The George on the number 15 bus in the early hours of Sunday morning. Mark, alongside his group of friends, was subjected to homophobic slurs before having his headphones knocked off.
When trying to get off the bus, a member of the group headbutted him, leaving him with serious facial injuries. According to Mark, the bus driver refused to call the guards and asked him to get off the bus before his attackers “come down and cause more trouble”.
Speaking to RTÉ, a spokesperson from NTA said that a dedicated police force is unnecessary as most journeys are completed without any issues and passengers feel safe.
They added that while similar assaults do occur occasionally, they are most frequently the result of fare-evaders engaging in dangerous activities such as stone throwing and malicious damage.
Instead 0f implementing a transport police force, Dublin Bus and other public transport operators will continue to work closely alongside Gardaí Siochana.
The proposition for a transport police unit was suggested by the general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Workers Union (NBRU), Dermot O’Leary. Speaking with Newstalk, O’Leary stated that “it is time for a dedicated Garda Public Transport Division” similar to the British Transport Police in the UK.
“We’ve been witnessing quite a high level of anti-social behaviour, not alone on trains, but certainly in the Bus Éireann network – which is spread geographically to every community in the country.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also addressed the recent attack as part of a broader interview with the Journal. While he agreed that a dedicated police unit is at present unwarranted, he also acknowledged the importance of people feeling safe when using public transport.
He continued, “Obviously, any decision on whether there would be a dedicated Garda force would be a matter for the Garda Commissioner rather than the government.”
“I don’t know if this is backed up by statistics, but certainly there’s a feeling in the community that there has been an increase in homophobic attacks in recent months. That is extremely worrying.”
“Based on what I have read, I believe that the attack on the bus was inspired by homophobic feelings.”
Varadakar confirmed that Justice Minister Helen McEntee has spoken to the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about the growing number of homophobic attacks. They are hopeful that new hate-crime legislation will be a monumental development in protecting minority groups in Ireland.
However, he stated that he still believes Ireland is a very safe country to be an LGBTQ+ person, calling it “one of the best countries in the world” for queer folks.
“Discrimination, homophobia, and homophobic bullying exist, but perhaps not to the level that it exists in other places.”
“And we have things like marriage equality, for example. I never forget the fact that there are 70 countries in the world where it’s still illegal to be gay and only 30 where you can marry the person you love.”
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