Fears of anti-social behaviour on Dart line rise as temperature goes up

Irish Rail to bring in text alert system for passengers along with increased CCTV

More than 1,700 passengers on Irish Rail countrywide have made complaints about anti-social behaviour including intimidation, assault and theft. File photograph: The Irish Times

More than 1,700 passengers on Irish Rail countrywide have made complaints about anti-social behaviour including intimidation, assault and theft. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

With temperatures set to rise next week, there is one group of people who may be dreading the balmier days – the capital’s Dart commuters.

Since 2016 until the end of last year, more than 1,700 passengers on Irish Rail countrywide have made complaints about anti-social behaviour including intimidation, assault and theft.

Labour senator Kevin Humphreys has heard numerous reports of anti-social behaviour on the northbound Dart to Howth, something which appears to be exacerbated by warmer weather. He is calling on Irish Rail to take swift action.

“We see youths with slabs of beer getting on to the Dart line and travelling to places like Howth or other beaches when the good weather is back, and they get back on in the evening intoxicated and in an aggressive state.

“It’s not just Howth, it is places like Greystones [Co Wicklow] too where the same thing happens. They are out drinking all day, come back on, and some may have taken drugs in that space of time. It makes other passengers extremely uncomfortable and women bear the brunt of it.

“We know this is going to happen and we have to plan for it. I am calling for Irish Rail to put immediate measures in place.”

Following a piece by journalist Sarah Jane Murphy earlier this week in The Irish Times, in which she wrote about her experience of intimidation on the Dart on a Thursday lunchtime, Irish Rail said it would introduce a text alert system for passengers in the coming weeks, along with the expansion of CCTV to all Dart carriages.

Humphreys and others say this is not enough and Irish Rail needs to ensure the stations are manned so that those who alight following an incident can be detained. Many politicians are now also calling for a dedicated transport police unit.

The Independent Alliance Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath says he intends to hold talks with his Alliance colleague, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross, on the issue.

Mr McGrath says he has received numerous complaints from parents in Clongriffin about children being intimidated or attacked on the Dart. Teenage girls appear to be a target, and the perpetrators are young men in the 16-21 age bracket, he says.

“They are blatantly and openly drinking and smoking in the carriages and are abusive to those around them. Most people aren’t even reporting it, so a lot of it is under the radar.”

He said he “100 per cent” supports the establishment of a transport police unit and will petition his Government colleagues on the issue.

Disruptive behaviour on the Dart has sparked sharp reaction from politicians.

In parliamentary correspondence, however, both Mr Ross and the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan have declined to commit to establishing such a force.

Mr Ross said he wrote to Mr Flanagan to seek views about the best way to tackle the anti-social behaviour, in particular on the Irish Rail network.

Mr Ross pointed out that the manner in which Garda personnel are deployed is solely a decision for the Garda Commissioner and his management team.

For his part, Mr Flanagan said Garda management engages extensively with transport operators and “a range of regional and local operations have been put in place to address incidents of anti-social behaviour”.

He said that while the gardaí were tackling this issue “head-on” they could not eradicate the problem of anti-social behaviour alone.

“Specifically in relation to young offenders, it is also up to us as adults, particularly the parents and guardians of our young, to ensure that children are raised to be respectful and law-abiding. These lessons begin in the home, are further reinforced in our schools and then by society in general. We must all work together to ensure that such behaviour is never normalised and is tackled immediately.”

On the northside of the Dart route, complaints have also been highlighted by Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin who told the Seanad he has heard of incidents at the stations in Bayside, Clongriffin and Howth Junction.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said it would appear that the Luas is more heavily “policed” than the Dart, which leaves the latter more open to anti-social behaviour.

“The Luas is more effectively policed, it is busier. Because the Dart is quieter, particularly at night, that can be intimidating. So the Dart is more prone to anti-social behaviour.” He says it is “very rare” that he would see a security presence at the stations in his area. He represents the Dublin Bay South constituency.

However, Ryan believes that anti-social incidents are “the exception rather than the rule”.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan agrees the Dart can be an uncomfortable experience for commuters, “particularly during the summer months, if they are exposed to young men who have consumed too much drink or drugs, playing loud music and who make the journey a very unpleasant experience for all other commuters”.

He added: “The time has probably come for Iarnród Éireann to provide better protection for its customers from those who want to upset or harass other commuters.

“They deserve better protection and the operators of the Dart need to be more intolerant of aggressive and drunken young men using their trains.”

In the Dún Laoghaire area, the Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she was aware of “yobbish” behaviour but said she does not back a dedicated transport police unit at this stage.

“It’s important that there is close co-operation between Irish Rail and the gardaí, who are very aware of yobbish behaviour on the Dart in my constituency. In my experience the gardaí have always reacted quickly to any requests for assistance. I don’t see the need for a dedicated transport police at this stage.

“I strongly advise parents to be vigilant, they simply can’t abdicate responsible for their children who are minors and may be partaking in yobbish behaviour in and around Dart stations.

“As soon as the weather gets warmer and the beaches in my constituency attract large crowds from all over the greater Dublin area, there will be a demand for greater supervision from parents, gardaí and Irish Rail. The Dart is an amenity for everyone and I want it to be safe and beneficial amenity for people of all ages.”

For its part, Irish Rail said this week that commuters would see a difference over the coming months in terms of policing with “very clear initiatives with the gardaí” throughout the “high profile time of the summer”. This, the company says, will give “greater confidence to people travelling with us.”