Aggression, intimidation and drugs: Public transport users share their stories

Irish Times readers on their experience of antisocial behaviour on public transport

Figures show more than 560 passengers made formal complaints last year about intimidation, vandalism, assault, begging and theft on Irish Rail services

Figures show more than 560 passengers made formal complaints last year about intimidation, vandalism, assault, begging and theft on Irish Rail services


Over the weekend we covered a story from a woman who experienced harassment and antisocial behaviour on Irish Rail.

Sarah-Jane Murphy was surrounded by a group of young men on the Dart as she travelled alone from Dún Laoghaire during lunchtime.

“I was trapped, stuck and scared. The air was heavy with cigarette smoke and the smell of stale alcohol. And still the lewd taunts kept on coming,” she said.

Figures show more than 560 passengers made formal complaints last year about intimidation, vandalism, assault, begging and theft on Irish Rail services.

Here are some of our readers’ experiences of using public transport in Dublin.

Kevin Howard

I take the train daily to and from Howth. The experience of being alone in a carriage when a group of young anti-social men get on can be terrifying. There’s a looming ominous feeling that the group will eventually get bored and come harass you for attention. I see teenagers, too, smoking weed all the time on the Dart platform at Howth. People are wise to the fact that these anti-social youths are unstoppable in the sense that they face no repercussions.

D Nevin

Very similar to the article in the paper, however, I had my teenage daughter with me. We were intimidated and scared. They were drinking, smoking and verbally scaring the hell out of us. We didn’t know the best way to react, so sat still, not making any eye contact. I haven’t used the Dart in the evening since and will drive to the Dart stop where my daughter’s friends disembark so she isn’t on her own any time from pm onwards. I didn’t write or complain at the time because after discussing with others they said it is what it is and nothing will be done about it. Putting out statistics on the number of passengers that travel safely does not capture the number of people who have had these experiences and either don’t travel again or travel with fear and trepidation. In my opinion the laws are not reflective of the current culture and society. I would pay a tax dedicated to securing the average person as they use the government- aided forms of transport and give people back the freedom to move around their city/country. For too long too many good, decent, honest and hard working people have accepted this status quo out of fear of retaliation. Time to start taking care of the people who act civilly towards each other and look to creating a good and caring society. All these elections based on what principles? Give me a candidate who will take one serious tangible issue and demonstrate how they will implement their strategy, how and in what timeframe and with what money.

Kevin Byrne

Thursday, April 25th. I boarded the front carriage of a northbound train in Dún Laoghaire. There were three young women and me in the carriage. As the doors closed I realised that there were also four young men who seemed to be aged between 18 to 22 at the far end of the carriage, who were clearly on drink or drugs. They were shouting loudly at each other, their voices drowned out everything else in the carriage, they were using foul language and then they started pushing each other around, at one point it seemed like a violent fight was inevitable. They were also smoking in the space between the carriages. By the next station, Seapoint, I determined that it was unsafe to stay, I advised the women to leave which they did, I spoke to the driver, who to his credit came out of his cab and shouted down the carriage “Hey lads, keep it down”. They ignored him. I then joined the women in the next carriage, where we could still hear the muffled shouting. The youths were still at it when I alighted in Sandymount. I use the Dart regularly, it’s a good service, most of the time there is no issue, but this is not the first anti-social behaviour I’ve seen. Every so often I come across drinking, loud and foul language, all of which is very disturbing in a confined space. As always it’s a small few destroying it for everyone else. We should have zero tolerance and the authorities should be allowed to use whatever force necessary to control these people.

Morgan Sylvester

I am student in Maynooth University and regularly have to get the train to there. There have often been beggars on the train. Usually two or three women accompanied by a man that oversees the women. The women walk up and down the train looking for train inspectors. Once they know that there are no inspectors on the train they begin to hand out packets of tissues accompanied with some printed letter stating that the tissues are free but a “tip” would be appreciated. If you take the tissues then they threaten you and demand you pay for them. Most people just ignore them but I have seen the beggars be very forceful trying to get some money. They can be very intimidating too.

James McCarthy

In the past year, on the southbound line of the Dart, during peak commute time, I’ve witnessed one man being racially abused by another passenger, one man being assaulted by another passenger for “acting aggressively” and numerous instances of drug abuse. I have also noticed a general increase in aggression and exchanges when the Dart is rammed. I suspect this is due to frustration. Irish Rail seem to not want to have anything to do with helping to guide passengers in a way to make conditions better for all of us, such as asking people to move away from the doors towards the aisles and to remove back-packs as they do on the continent. Whereas we hear regular announcements to keep feet off seats. Hardly an issue during rush hour! The Dart also seems to be used to shuttle drugs between the city centre and the outskirts. I’ve witnessed blatant deliveries just outside stations before the courier goes straight in to the station.

Rina Joseph

I was travelling towards Dublin City University in Glasnevin to meet my friend on the number 44 Dublin Bus route. I forget the day, it happened a while ago but the memory is still fresh in my mind. I wasn’t traumatised, but I felt sad and dirty for a few days after the incident. There was a big game happening that day. The traffic was unbelievable but it was nice to see a sea of blue happily walking towards the stadium. A bunch of lads climbed aboard when we reached Drumcondra. They were drunk and were being so loud and gross it was cringey. They were sitting at the back on the upper deck of the bus, I was sitting two rows ahead of them. They got bored talking smack at each other and decided to drown me with a barrage of racist jokes. My favourite was “was it Mexican cum or Brazilian cum that made ya little girl” (FYI, it was Indian). Before I could decide to even walk out, they proceeded to smoke on their e-cigarettes and the driver asked them to get out.

John Foody

When living in Rialto I used to get the Red Line Luas infrequently. There’s a number of incidents, but one sticks out. A young man, perhaps 16, was a bit worse for wear. He was part of a boisterous group of 16-17 year olds. He was holding on to one of the yellow Luas bars and stating how he “felt really sick” and “needed to get off”. The unanimous response from his group was “It’s only the Luas!’ just get sick! We’re not getting off here”. It sticks out, as it highlights to me how little respect there is amongst some groups for the public realm. There’s a real confidence to those that behave anti-socially. They know they can operate with impunity as public transport and Dublin city centre more generally is a consequence-free zone for such behaviour.

Naomi O’Leary

I was a Dart commuter daily to school and then college. During that time, the most serious incidents I experienced were aged 13-15, with sexual harassment from middle aged men. I’m very familiar with the rowdiness of groups of teenagers on the Dart sometimes, but I feel strongly that teenagers and the young should not be demonised or criminalised as they are also likely to be victims of the most serious crimes in my experience; have less power; and there are wider societal reasons for their behaviour (lack of facilities for the young, spaces dominated by cars and small homes).


If you use public transport in Dublin, you see antisocial behaviour – it’s as simple as that, and having used a lot of public transport in various big and small cities around the world, Dublin seems particularly useless at tackling it. I’m sorry, but I’ve travelled a lot, and I just don’t see feral gangs of teenagers and youths (primarily, but not exclusively) making life a misery for commuters whenever I’m away. As such, there’ve been too many bad incidents on Dublin Bus, the Dart, and the Luas – yes, both lines – to recount, but two stand out in particular. I’ll never forget taking a morning rush-hour bus out to Lucan and, as usual, groups of teenage girls going to Lucan schools getting on the bus and shouting and effing each other loudly throughout the journey. Sitting upstairs, a gaggle of girls in their uniforms got on and filled up most of the front, ignoring the other passengers as they shouted and swore at each other. Then an older lady at the front stood up to get off; she appeared to be an eastern European lady, and had been sitting there silently looking out the window. One of the girls, aged about 16 or 17, suddenly lifted her leg high across the aisle, blocking the woman’s passage. Then the girl looked this quiet stranger in the face, and loudly said: “Dirty bitch.” While her friends screeched with laughter, the girl kept her leg in place blocking the aisle, forcing the red-faced woman to climb awkwardly over it/her to go downstairs, while all of us other adults – to our shame – said and did absolutely nothing. Why not? Probably because of the possibility of the victim/“hero” getting into further trouble, as another awful incident shows. A pretty recent Luas journey south towards Dundrum saw a jam-packed Luas totally ignoring another middle-aged woman being bullied by – surprise – more teenage girls. I was only going one stop on the Luas, but I noticed what was happening the moment I got on, with a visibly upset woman being targeted by four girls sitting near where she was standing, who were throwing things at her. “I’ll report you! Stop that!” she said, ineffectually, which they found hilarious, as they laughed and called her names and threw scraps of rubbish at her. The group’s clear ringleader loudly called back: “Take our photo, why don’t you? I bet you like photos of little girls, don’t you! You like photos of little kids! Fucking paedophile! Pedo! Pedo! Pedo!” A few chants of “Pedo! Pedo!” rang out on the Luas, with a hundred-plus listening adults all doing and saying not a goddamn thing as the woman cried and shook with anger and upset. Who’s going to come to the rescue of anyone and get “Paedophile!” shouted back at them in return? There were grown men and women of all ages – including observing tourists – and nobody lifted a finger, or said a word to help that poor woman. (My stop came along in just a moment, and the second I was off that Luas I called their hotline, where a sympathetic operator said Security were ahead down the line, and they’d redirect them. I can only hope that woman was okay, and that Somebody else did Something to try and help her out.) But that’s my impression of Dublin’s public transport – full of feral kids and youths, many drinking and often smoking joints or openly drug dealing (as I’ve often seen), passengers afraid and unwilling to intervene, rarely a sign of any security or help (and only then, confined to erratic Luas sightings, and never, ever on the Dart or Dublin Bus), and not a peep out of the NTA or the Government about same.

Susan Coffey

In February I was upstairs on a 46A around 5pm on Blessington Street, an intoxicated older man started asking me inappropriate questions and making lewd comments. Less than a month later an intoxicated older man was attempting to get my attention on a 16 bus at O’Connell Bridge around 5pm, I ignored him which led to him shouting abuse at me for the remainder of the journey.

Brendan Hayes

Travelled in to Tara Street from Blackrock station on April 27th (Saturday evening at 7.05 or thereabouts). At Booterstown (I think) a bunch of four to five juveniles (13-16 I’d guess) came on. Initially they were just audible and well – juvenile. But there was one kid there – with curly hair – who then started commenting out loud about other passengers (none of whom responded and kept to themselves). At the next stop or two, he whistled and cat-called out the open door at women passengers exiting the Dart. The lads exited at Tara Street and this same guy then slapped his hands against the passenger windows of two carriages as he walked along the platform – frightening and intimidating the female passengers inside. Not threatening, because the glass protected the passengers, but frightening nonetheless. Then I observed all the lads queuing up tightly behind other exiting passengers so that they could exit free of charge. I hung around observing for three more minutes and watched as the lads then re-entered the station – free of charge again, tight behind paying customers – and last I saw they were headed up the stars to the platform to presumably go back in the direction they came from. Their boisterous behaviour, a pack of juveniles, was disconcerting. The slapping of the windows of the carriage by the curly headed juvenile was frightening and intimidatory. The entry and re-entry to the platforms/trains was annoying and makes a fool of paying customers like me. However, the eventful Dart night was not over. Returning to Tara Street at about 11.15, as we got on the train, another seven to eight juveniles left and as we went to take their seats, we saw a lovely high green lump of phlegm deposited in the middle of the seat. I can only guess that it was spat there deliberately by one of the departing juveniles. Just then. It was fresh. We found other seats and soon observed two unkempt individuals getting up and repeatedly entering the door space between the carriages. Didn’t know what was going on there, but then I could see they were inhaling some sort of drugs – presumably – which they were heating up on a base of tinfoil using a lighter. They eventually re-entered the main carriage and joined two other companions. No threatening or disruptive behaviour. Just thought I’d pass this on, as the atmosphere of insecurity and potential disorder on both of these journeys would dissuade me from using the Dart, certainly at this time on a Saturday evening/night. Physical presence of security, both on the trains and at the stations, Luas style security, and CCTV on the carriages are required.

Susan Donnelly

Here’s something hair raising – one of the most shocking experience of my life. At 10pm on December 17th, going from Grand Canal Dock to Malahide. I got on the Dart with my sister and 81-year-old mother having attended a show. Teenagers off their heads on drink/drugs in carriage. Aged 12 to 15. Girls 12 to 13. One girl kept trying to climb out window and she was so small and skinny I was worried she would do it. Very agitated. Disgusting comments from one of the boys – give your fellla (who was beside her) a “blow job/wank”. She then wet herself. And didn’t really seem to notice. We changed carriage at Connolly and reported this to driver. Driver said this is normal now, did report it and was helpful, but at a loss really. Train stopped for 10-15minutes, no sign of security. They appeared to split up, some getting off. We got back on and security appeared as train about to leave. Nothing really done. I really worried about that girl, her prospects for survival seem low.

Anna Parnell

On February 22nd, 2017, I went for the 21.07 train at Clongriffin station after visiting my grandchildren. A gang of youths (male and female) at the station began terrorising me. I was relieved to see two security men in the station who told me they had rang the guards. It was quite dark and the platform was deserted. I saw two males from the gang on the platform and they continued to insult me. I was in fear so I returned to the station only to be followed by them. They seemed to think it funny to intimidate and insult a female my age. I could not leave the station as the gang were blocking the exit. Security said I would be safer returning to the platform. I could hear the gang shouting and threatening security as they were berated for terrorising me. I was shaking with fear on the platform and looking for somewhere to hide while listening to the commotion in the station. I contemplated hiding in the lift but I was afraid I would get trapped so I hid behind the wall of the lift. Security came down the steps to the platform and were followed by the gang. The security men were very kind and stood beside me while they discussed ringing the guards again. They were also afraid of the gang and completely outnumbered. When the train arrived some of the gang jumped on, which shocked me. Security said I should get onto the last carriage and they remained in the station. I was in state of anxiety for the duration of my journey. The following day I attended my doctor for anxiety and still have a fear using the train. I complained to Irish Rail and Coolock Garda station. While they acknowledged my complaint I heard nothing since.

Anne H

I was on the green line Luas, Sunday, mid-morning. I got on at Cabra. The train was reasonably busy but still seats were around. Between the group of four seats I was in and the group of four opposite, six probably 20-year-olds, two females, four males came and three sat beside me and three sat in the opposite bay where there was one girl already seated. During the journey the male (I just can’t call him a man) brought all the phlegm up he had and spat it out on front of me, between our feet on the floor. They had said they were on the way to Dundrum to rob his brother’s shop. (Nice). Then the youth beside me and diagonally opposite me started violently punching their own heads with their own fists. I was scared that they could do easily turn around and just punch my head and smash it off the window. That made me very nervous. These people were unpredictable. I had been having a lovely journey up until the point they entered the train. It was my first journey from that end of the line, after a lovely evening with friends. It was a beautiful morning and the sky was blue . . . and quickly my morning was ruined with fear and intimidation. I decided I couldn’t sit here any more and despite one of their legs across the passage way, they thankfully didn’t make any effort to jeer or stop me. For that I was relieved.

Vivion Tarrant

As a pensioner I’m a regular on Dublin Bus and Dart services. Behaviour on trains is entirely unsupervised. As a result, drinking and rowdyism is common on the Dart, usually done by young men. Drunken or drugged passengers often shout and abuse each other, causing apprehension among passengers, When this happens, the only recourse I have is to abandon the carriage, as there is no-one in charge. I see this bad behaviour about once per week on the Dart (ie on about 10 per cent of journeys). PS Message to Irish Rail: It would be a brave man who would risk taking a photo of these hooligans.

Colm Walsh

Watched a man sit in wheelchair in corridor by smelly toilet Westport to Dublin train on May 6th: no access to main carriage? Disgraceful. Toilets filthy and no water to wash hands.

Tim Carey

I have never experienced anti-social behaviour on the Dart.

Dave Mc

When exiting Tara Street about a month ago (around 16.30), I witnessed three youths being loud on the stairwell, shouting “He has a bomb”, they then leapt over the turnstile, and most shockingly – one of them spat on a homeless man begging on the street. Dublin’s finest.

Conall Lalor

So many stations are now unmanned on the Maynooth line. There is unrestricted access to the platforms day and night as the ticket validation barriers are left permanently open, which according to Irish Rail is for health and safety reasons. Go figure.