Public transport staff call for police unit to tackle racial abuse

Drivers and staff on public transport who are subjected to racial abuse every day have called on the Government to introduce transport police to tackle ongoing incidents.

One Luas driver described how racist verbal attacks were now so common that it has become “part and parcel” of the job.

Sammy Akorede, who has lived and worked in Dublin for 18 years, said that a transport police unit would greatly improve the transport system.

It comes as a new advertisement was unveiled on Ireland’s public transport which features hundreds of commuters standing in solidarity against racism.

More than 1,000 selfies were donated to the cause by commuters and the images were used to create a large montage image of a face.

Two images of migrant women and a man will be used in the campaign artwork which was created by renowned collage artist Charis Tsevis.

More than 1,600 posters will be displayed on Ireland’s transport system for two weeks.

Mr Akorede, a Luas driver, said: “Racism has always been a problem in this society and all we are asking for is more public awareness and for people to know that when we are called names that makes us feel bad.

“Virtually every day we encounter series of abuses, some are minor like people calling us names when walking off, to physical attacks, and I have experienced that.

“It’s absolutely a problem on Irish transport, it’s in every public system.

“People abuse you and walk away at the next station.”

He said that verbal racist attacks are not being taken seriously enough and establishing transport on the systems “would help”.

He added: “Not enough is being done to tackle racism, it has improved from when I started.

“But more needs to be done in terms of legislation. There’s no legislation against hate crime, it’s just regarded as normal abuse.

“I get abused every day when I’m on the tram and it affects every staff.

“Abuse can vary from minor, like people saying ‘go back to your country’ after you ask them for their ticket. I am only doing my job.

“We are an easy target and it’s unfortunately become part and parcel of the job.

“Some also spit at us.

“I was physically attacked and had a cut to my eye and had to go to Tallaght Hospital.

But others have been off for months after an attack.

“Transport police will greatly improve public transport in all sectors.”

The chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Brian Killoran, described the meaning behind the campaign.

“Transport forms the backbone  of many people’s lives and it’s the perfect public place to send out a message to the diverse members of staff and customers,” he said.

“We need to be vigilant to things like racism and a unified campaign really sends out that strong message.

“Staff are now so diverse and unfortunately they have reported to us lots of different types of incidents whereby they are targeted by members of the public, they suffer abuse and sometimes are spat at and assaults.

“The incidents may seem small, like name-calling, but if people are being called that week on week, that impacts on whether they feel at home and their mental health so every incident is serious.”

John O’Flynn, communications manager for Transport for Ireland, said: “We are delighted to again be co-ordinating this crucially important campaign.

“Ireland’s increasing diversity is reflected among transport staff and our commuters and this year it is fantastic to unite in our message to stand up against racism.”

- Press Association

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