herald

Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Why have you come to Ireland?' - tourist racially abused for hour on train

Mr Bhattachjee spoke to Joe Duffy (pictured) on Liveline
Mr Bhattachjee spoke to Joe Duffy (pictured) on Liveline

A tourist has spoken of being subjected to racial abuse on a Dublin-bound train during his holiday in Ireland.

Prasun Bhattachjee, from India, was on the 7.05pm train from Belfast when he claimed a passenger made racist remarks to him and his elderly parents.

Speaking to Joe Duffy on RTE One's Liveline, Mr Bhattachjee claimed the man was drunk and verbally abused the trio for nearly an hour.

"One person who was on the same coach abused us for our skin colour, our nationality, all those things," said Mr Bhattachjee.

"We felt so bad. He sat beside us after boarding and he was drunk, I think.

"He didn't stop. He remained there up to Dublin, saying, 'Why don't you know English? Why have you come here? You shouldn't have come here'.

"We didn't react. We remained calm and sat there."

Also speaking on the programme was a fellow passenger on the train, named as 'Peter'.

He described the incident as embarrassing.

"It was really awful to have to listen to the tirade of abuse that the group received. It was really, really embarrassing," he said.

Drunk

"I boarded the train in Newry and shortly afterwards the abuser came on the train. He was certainly drunk, there was a beer can in his hand and he was full of abuse. It was absolutely terrible.

"I felt the train guards that came should have done more.

"[The guard] didn't seem to intervene. He just asked the gentleman to sit down on the chair but apart from that he made no other type of intervention with regard to his behaviour.

"As I got off the train I went over to Mr Bhattachjee's father and apologised on behalf of myself and on behalf of everybody on the train for the abuse they had to listen to."

A spokesperson for Irish Rail described the incident as "disgraceful" and said the company had reached out to Mr Bhattachjee to help them investigate the incident.

"This was a shocking incident and we are very sorry that this family experienced such disgraceful behaviour on board one of our train services," they said.

"On board personnel did endeavour to stop the racist harassment, and also arranged for security to meet the train at Connolly upon arrival.

"We have been contacted by the customer directly on social media and have asked for further information to assist in our investigation. We have also been contacted by other customers with information.

"We will also provide gardai with CCTV footage to help identify the individual involved. 

"Abuse of this nature has no place on our trains."

Extra gardai are to be deployed on trains following a significant increase in reports of harassment and antisocial behaviour. This follows the release of figures which show more than 560 passengers made formal complaints last year about intimidation, vandalism, assault, begging and theft on Irish Rail services.

Complaints about antisocial behaviour on the Dart almost doubled last year to 96 from 52 the previous year.

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