Racist tirade on Limerick train attracts global media interest

Gardai investigating verbal attack on passenger

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Racist tirade on Limerick train attracts global media interest

The woman in the video, widely shared online

A RACIST tirade by a woman on a Limerick train, which has been described by Irish Rail as painting “a very poor picture of the country”, has attracted the attention of media outlets in India, Australia, Malaysia, and the UK.

The woman’s verbal attack on a passenger, believed to be of Indian origin, during which she told him “F*** off back to India”, has been reported by The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The New Indian Express and The Economic Times in India, as well as other international news outlets.

Gardai in Bruff, County Limerick, are investigating the incident which took place on a train from Limerick's Colbert station to Limerick Junction after 7pm on Easter Sunday night.

Officers with the community diversity integration section in Harcourt Square, Dublin, are also seeking to trace the woman involved, who is identifiable in a series of videos captured by passengers. 

Barry Kenny, corporate communications manager with Iarnród Éireann, said while the incident was “horrific”, he said “thankfully it’s not hugely prevalent” on their services.

“When incidents like these are captured [on video] they travel. We have had queries from British media, I’ve seen it on other overseas media, and on Australian media. It paints a very poor picture of the country," said Mr Kenny.

The incident has also been reported by the Malaysia Digest and the Metro in the UK.

“Every country sadly has its share of racists. It highlights racism here in Ireland, but these incidents get a lot of exposure overseas as well. What was said to these customers was not acceptable,” said Mr Kenny.

He said the customer who “perpetrated this attack” wasn’t known to their staff, but working alongside investigating gardai they believe they have “a very good chance of identifying who the person is.”

Chief Superintendent David Sheahan, head of the Limerick garda division, said no formal complaint has been made to date by the victim.

"We are endeavouring to identify that person, and are actively trying to progress our investigations but we are asking for the public's assistance in that regard," he told the Limerick Leader.

Should a formal complaint be made, it is understood that the incident would proceed under the Incitement to Hatred Act (1989), under which it is an offence to use words which are threatening, abusive or insulting and are likely to stir up hatred.

The racist remarks appear to have been made after a man placed his bag on a seat on the train.

However, Mr Kenny said that the level of “hostility” shown by the female passenger “is not related to the bag on the seat.”

“There have to be consequences for people who behave in this way against customers for any reason, and particularly for discrimination. This is above and beyond a seat availability issue. It’s motivated by hate, sadly, and every time you see it [the video], you gasp,” he said.

“We have a very multicultural workforce, and it is important that both staff and customers are protected from this,” he said.

He added that passengers’ names are not displayed above seats on the connection from Limerick’s Colbert Station to Limerick Junction, but on other connecting trains.

A video of the incident was posted on Twitter by a passenger and has been viewed by both gardai and staff at Irish Rail.

In the video a woman can be heard saying: “F**k off back to India. Don’t give me your guff, you f**king cheeky p***k.

“Respect my f**king country and get your bag off the seat.”

“Come on Ireland. Come on the Republic. Let the Indians in and take our seats,” she said.

She continued: “Speak f***ing English when you're in f***ing Ireland.” 

Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said it was harrowing watching footage of passengers being abused because of their ethnic identity.

“Every year the Immigrant Council of Ireland runs an anti-racism campaign alongside Transport for Ireland encouraging victims and witnesses of racism on public transport to report all incidents. 

“Sadly we know from this experience racial abuse on public transport is an issue, with victims often being transport staff themselves. Evidence of this nature highlights the need for effective hate crime laws to more robustly tackle such unacceptable behaviour and work towards eradicating it from our society,” said Mr Killoran.

Along with Transport for Ireland and other public transport providers, Mr Kenny said Iarnród Éireann works with the Immigrant Council of Ireland to counteract racist abuse and encourage reporting of any instances of abuse suffered by customers or employees.

In March, a study issued by the European Network against Racism Ireland (ENAR Ireland) found that there was an alarming growth in the number of racism incidents reported over the last six months.

A total of 245 reports were made in that time frame, an increase of 55 on the previous period.