Ireland needs a dedicated transport police force to tackle violence on trains, buses and trams around the country, according to the Dáil Justice Committee chair.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, James Lawless said recent violent incidents at Dublin Airport and elsewhere highlight the need for the new force.
The Fianna Fáil TD said things have gotten worse since the pandemic – noting that the fight that broke out in Dublin Airport last week could have been avoided if the facility had enough security personnel.
He said he has noticed a real change in his daily commute from North Kildare to Dublin.
“Our public spaces have become places where people don’t feel comfortable and don’t always feel safe,” he said.
“In the last couple of years and particularly I think since the pandemic, we’ve seen they are places that sometimes there can be an air of menace – not always but very often.
“Even on the way home on the train last night, there was people playing music in the carriage and there was an air of cannabis smoke hanging around.
“Many people have said they have seen people intoxicated on public transport, and I’m not talking about the ‘drinklink’ or the Nitelink home at 3am – I’m talking about 3pm in the afternoon.”
He said there’s been a real change since the pandemic.
“During COVID when people were, sort of, off the train and the trams, most law-abiding citizens stayed at home,” he said. “They were under lockdown and they followed the rules.
“Perhaps those less law-abiding citizens had free reign. They expanded into those spaces and haven’t really left them in the same way. Maybe they feel a bit enabled because they’ve had that free run for a couple of years.”
He suggested other jurisdictions, including New York are experiencing similar issues post-pandemic – despite the fact they have a “very significant” police presence on public transport.
He praised the private security teams that patrol the DART and the Luas at times – but insisted Ireland needs State officers on public transport.
“Really, if you’re going to sort this out consistently, you would have to have it across all forms of public transport,” he said
“Also, we’re Republic and our citizens should be served by a force who are accountable and who have the training in terms of powers of arrest and powers of search etc.”
Deputy Lawless said the transport police could a division of the Gardaí or a separate State force.
“A separate force might be no harm because it would stop officers being pulled away to other stations,” he said.
“They shouldn’t be seen as movable units in the wider force. They should be seen as a dedicated transport body.”
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