London firefighter who rescued Dublin Bus driver from mob: ‘It’s not bravery, it’s just what we do’

Balal ‘Billy’ Hussain intervened as he thought Mauritian driver was going to be ‘proper filled in’ amid violent disorder

The British firefighter who helped Dublin Bus driver Sailesh Tupsy to safety during last week’s riots in Dublin said he was saddened to see a racially motivated attack of the sort he believes is more commonly witnessed in London.

Balal “Billy” Hussain, is a regular visitor to Dublin for boxing matches and was over last week ahead of the Katie Taylor fight on Saturday evening.

He was in the city centre with a colleague, Tim Stevens, when he heard what he initially thought might have been a bomb go off, then saw a Garda car on fire.

“I ran over and asked someone if there was anyone in it and they said yeah, two gardaí. And I thought: ‘What?’ But when I got near the car I saw there was no one in there. If there had been they would have been gone.


“After that I started to hear the crowd, some of the stuff coming out of people’s mouths, racist stuff, and I was thinking: ‘What is going on here?’ I didn’t understand it.”

He said the pair were standing and watching for a little while and sensed the crowd getting more hostile.

“They started launching fireworks, chanting stuff and all of a sudden a double-decker bus pulls up. I looked up and thought: ‘Please don’t let the driver be a black or Asian person’.

“But sure enough . . . [Mr Tupsy is originally from Mauritius] and I said to Tim: ‘This geezer’s going to get proper filled in’.”

As the son of a Pakistani bus driver, Mr Hussain says he was aware he might become a target himself but what happened next had “nothing to do with bravery, it’s just what we do”.

It only took a few moments, he recalls, before the doors on the bus were open and some of the crowd got on.

“I said to my colleague, they are going to get him. So I put my cap on my head and I had a black jacket on and I sort of covered my face and I just went into the mob. There was a white Irish guy and he was between the crowd and the driver and he was like, ‘leave him alone’ and that was working for a bit but then people just dragged him out of the way and they were saying ‘get the P**i’ or something and trying to drag him out.

“I got through the mob and got to the driver. I got him in a headlock and people were saying: ‘Kill him, kill him’. “I just had him in this tight headlock and he didn’t know who I was because my face was covered but I dragged him out of the bus, to the front of it and over to where some gardaí were standing. I said to them, ‘They were attacking him, they are going to burn that bus’, and they were like: ‘There’s nothing we can do.’

“I didn’t even say bye to the guy (the driver). I went back towards the bus and by this stage they were trying to set fire to the seats.”

He said he and his friend returned to their hotel after the incident, telling anyone along the way they thought might become a target for the rioters to turn back or take another route.

Mr Hussain, who is currently in Belfast for the Michael Conlan fight, said it was the first time he had had any experience of racism in Dublin, something he is well used to in London.

“I’m so used to hearing that but it’s the first time I’d heard it in Ireland. We’re used to hearing this stuff in London, you see how people like the EDL (English Defence League) ignite anger, this sort of fire in people and people just don’t think, the things they do make no sense. I mean they smashed up a fire engine . . . nobody’s thinking at that point.

“It’s sad, I don’t like it. I understand if people want to protest about immigration or whatever but people hijack it and make it out that it’s all about the foreigners and this and that, when there are so many hard-working people. It would be terrible if it turned into London where it’s all so normal.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times