Garda control room set for Heuston to speed up response to violence on public transport

No plans to set up dedicated Garda public transport unit despite calls from passengers, politicians and unions

An Garda Síochána is to station part of its Dublin control room in Heuston station, allowing a quicker response to violence on public transport.

However, it has no plans to set up a specialised public-transport police unit despite calls from passengers, politicians and transport union officials.

The issue was highlighted again this week following the homophobic assault of a young man on a late-night bus in Dublin.

Mark Sheehan, from southwest Dublin, had been socialising last Saturday night in the George nightclub on Dame Street with three friends, celebrating two of their birthdays.


While taking a late-night bus home with his friends, Mr Sheehan was assaulted by a young man on the bus, after being called a “f****t” by a group of men.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said a decision on whether there would be a dedicated transport police would be a matter “for the Garda Commissioner rather than the Government”.

Gardaí will continue to respond to crime where ever it happens, a Garda spokesman said on Wednesday. He said if transport companies contact gardaí to say they are worried about incidents on a station or a route, the Garda will make resources available.

In other countries with dedicated transport police, transport companies foot the bill, he added.

The stationing of Garda control room elements in Dubin’s Heuston station would give gardaí a “real-time” link with transport companies, he said.

The move is part of the roll-out of the Garda’s new command and control system, which is expected to go live in the Dublin region before the end of the year.

The Garda has also been carrying out “days of action” in recent months in an effort to combat antisocial behaviour on public transport, it said.

In a statement on Wednesday, An Garda Síochána said it was “not considering the establishment of a transport police unit at the moment”.

The statement comes after the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said the travelling public “urgently needs” a permanent and dedicated Garda public-transport unit

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said it appeared that “not a day goes by without yet another assault occurring on our public-transport system”.

“It has long since passed time that our politicians acted on their own words of support and move to establish a dedicated Garda public-transport division,” Mr O’Leary said.

Speaking earlier on Wednesday, former assistant Garda commissioner Pat Leahy backed calls for a dedicated transport police division.

Antisocial behaviour on public transport was a long-standing problem, but the existing Garda resources could not be stretched to include a transport division and a dedicated transport unit would have to be separately funded, he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.

Mr Leahy said his preference would be for a separate transport police force which would have powers of enforcement and access to holding facilities and the legal system.

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart said he was fed up waiting for the Government to establish a dedicated service, and that private security firms were not the answer.

“They do not have the power of detention and arrest as the Gardaí do — the airport police have these powers,” he told Newstalk’s Hard Shoulder.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times