Drivers warn they won't go into 'bandit country' as dart safety fears grow
Dart drivers have threatened to strike over fears for their safety because of terrifying attacks by thugs in Dublin's "bandit country".
The drivers have notified Irish Rail that they plan to stop DART trains travelling across the northside from Connolly Station after 7pm on Friday nights and over the weekend.
They told the Herald that they fear for their lives and have been threatened at knifepoint by gangs, and claim drugs are sold openly on trains and at stations.
The drivers said security staff cannot cope with the attacks, which include the hijacking of a train in Clongriffin last month and a row after a recent Liam Gallagher concert.
It is believed there is strong support for action among a group of drivers unless steps are taken to improve their safety.
"When you go north of Connolly, as far as I'm concerned, you're heading into bandit country and you don't know what's going to happen," said John Curran (53), a Dart driver for 13 years.
"I've rolled into Harmonstown station and there were 10 or 11 lads on the platform and every single one of them had bandanas and hoodies on. All you could see was eyes. I'm intimidated. I start to get stressed.
"I start to get anxious because I don't know what they're going to do on the train.
"I'm the driver and I'm locked in my cab. What about the passengers who are on the train and see them get on?"
Eric Rooney, who drove the ill-fated Clongriffin train, said he or a passenger could have been killed when a rock was hurled through a window recently.
He has also been threatened by a drug addict and a flasher with a knife.
"It's getting worse. I was on the train at Clongriffin Station and there was nobody around," he said.
"All of a sudden it was like somebody said on a radio, 'Right, go', and 10 youths sprang out of nowhere. They put wood in between the door so it wouldn't close.
"You had six lads spraying the train. You had two lads with big lumps of wood shouting at passengers not to move and it was absolutely incredible.
"They took the whole train hostage. This is what you won't hear in the reports - a second gang came on the scene to spray the train and started fighting with the first gang.
"They had knives and wood and were all wearing bandanas up around their faces.
"It was very intimidating for the passengers."
Mr Rooney said a staff member protected a pregnant woman who was screaming. The rail worker heard one of the gang say "stab him", but he did not know if he was talking about him or a member of the rival gang.
The driver said there was security at the station every night for a week, but after that there was nothing and they were "back to square one".
Last week, a signalman warned him about a gang of stone throwers at Kilbarrack, and on his return journey there was a fire at the station.
He claimed Irish Rail has a "keep the wheels going at all costs" attitude.
Mr Curran said a gang who kicked the train at Harmonstown Station got out at Kilbarrack but would not let him close the doors.
"We have to put our head out the train to ensure the platform is clear and safe for us to close the doors," he said.
"I was roared at, 'Put your f**king head back in there', and two of them were running up the platform at me, and said, 'Get his photo'.
"There were two security agents on the train. They can't do anything against a gang. There was nearly 20 of them."
He said he has had to wait up to 40 minutes for security to arrive in the past, but they do not have powers to remove people from trains or stations.
The drivers said ticket-checkers will not work on the northside line at night, and called for a transport police force.
In a letter to Irish Rail's regional manager John Reville, Siptu organiser Paul Cullen warned that short-term security measures were not enough.
He said there was previously substantial security on all late-night Darts.
"It would not be in anybody's interest or indeed we would not like to see a return to a situation where such services were to become 'no go' areas," he said.
Irish Rail said there were a number of stone-throwing incidents in north Dublin over the past couple of weeks, but these have eased, and it is putting extra security in place.
"It is an issue which unfortunately does grow in the summer months, and we address with targeted security," said a spokesperson.
"We have increased our security cover and are liaising with drivers and their representatives and reviewing customer feedback to ensure we can address any concerns."
A spokesperson for Transport Minister Shane Ross said he is looking into the possibility of transport police with the power of arrest, though this would require legislation.
She said the minister is asking his officials to engage with the company and Railway Safety Advisory Council to explore "the adequacy of current policing arrangements".