I thank the Deputy for his question on a very serious and worrying matter that has increasingly come to the fore in recent times. I am glad to have the chance to clarify the facts surrounding this issue and to detail the ways in which it is being addressed.
The safety and security of public transport passengers and staff, including arrangements to deal with antisocial behaviour, are important matters that, first and foremost, must be managed by every public transport company, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána where appropriate.
While the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident, I am of course concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers and staff.
Following representations from the National Bus and Rail Union, NBRU, in respect of this matter, my Department wrote to the three CIÉ companies, seeking their views both on the issue of antisocial behaviour and about ensuring the safety of passengers and staff. In their responses, all three companies stressed their strong and close working relationships with An Garda Síochána.
I also wrote to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, to seek his views on how we could best address the issue of antisocial behaviour on our public transport system. It is important to note that the allocation of all Garda resources, including the manner in which Garda personnel are deployed, is solely a decision for the Garda Commissioner and his management team.
Last week, I received a response from the Minister for Justice and Equality outlining the recommendations of a report that he had received from An Garda Síochána on the issue of antisocial behaviour.
The letter advised that An Garda Síochána does not propose to establish a specialist or dedicated unit of the force to police the rail network and further stated that effective local community policing efforts can meet the policing needs of the rail network and its stakeholders.
The report by An Garda Síochána proposes that the Railway Safety Advisory Council, RSAC, will advise the Garda as to the priority rail locations, where the Garda Bureau of Community Engagement will facilitate meetings with local Garda management to ensure that an appropriate policing response is delivered.
Among the proposed strategies to be put in place by An Garda Síochána are: regular liaison with the RSAC; identification of priority hot spots; facilitation of local Garda management meetings with stakeholders; assignment of local community-policing gardaí; crime-prevention advice to transport service providers; and increased liaison at the planning phase of key events, such as concerts, sporting occasions and public meetings.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Minister for Justice and Equality has been advised by An Garda Síochána that the Garda superintendent of community engagement and public safety and the RSAC will keep the above actions under review and subject to an annual meeting.
I understand that An Garda Síochána met the RSAC to discuss the issue of antisocial behaviour on our public transport network and that further engagement and initiatives are planned. Following that engagement, I note and welcome the recent deployment of gardaí to public transport locations and to DART, Luas and commuter rail services under Operation Twintrack.