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Sunday 18 August 2019

'People make monkey chants' - driver tells of racist Luas abuse

One of the buses featuring the new anti-racism campaign. Photo: PA
One of the buses featuring the new anti-racism campaign. Photo: PA
Luas driver Lanre Bode Olatunji. Photo: Aoife Moore

A Luas driver has spoken about the racist taunts he has received while driving a tram.

Lanre Bode Olatunji (46) was born in Nigeria but moved to Ireland 23 years ago.

He has driven a Luas tram since 2004 and has been subjected to racist comments frequently.

"People say things and make gestures and ask questions," he said. "Sometimes they don't even know they're being racist."

Lanre said on a few occasions people have walked in front of the tram to exhibit racist behaviour.

"When I drive the tram, people come out in front of the tram and make monkey chants. I feel angry and hurt but there is nothing I can do," he said. "I keep on driving."

Threatened

Once an elderly man threatened to get him fired.

"He knocked on the cab door and said, 'I'm going to get you sacked, you black b*****d'. That was shocking. I didn't think an elderly person would do that."

Despite these encounters, father-of-six Lanre hopes attitudes are changing - and he said "raising awareness helps".

Lanre was speaking at the launch of a new anti-racism campaign on public transport.

Montage

Hundreds of selfies donated by passengers have been amalgamated to create a large montage representing diversity on the Transport for Ireland (TFI) public transport network.

From Tuesday to Thursday, commuters at Heuston Station are being invited to show their solidarity and take a stand against racism by donating a selfie to feature in the campaign and sharing it on social media.

Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said: "The best thing about this year's campaign is the involvement of so many commuters, uniting to take a public stand against racism by donating their selfies.

"Racism left unchallenged damages society for everyone, not just victims, and the only way to overcome it is by joining forces to say we will not tolerate it.

"This joint campaign with Transport for Ireland, transport operators and Dublin City Council, now in its seventh year, is a great example of people coming together to say there is no room for racism - on public transport or within society at large."

Meanwhile, Anne Graham, chief executive of the National Transport Authority, said: "TFI is proud to be working with the Immigrant Council of Ireland in rolling out this important campaign. Racism has no place on public transport, and it will not be tolerated.

"I would encourage commuters to show their support by dropping by our booth at Heuston Station next week and getting their picture taken for use in the campaign image."

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