Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Only Losers Take the Bus

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
An Spailpín is still trying to come to terms with a clip from Liveline he heard this morning, just before the eight o’clock news on Radio 1. It seems that a 19 year old man was thrown off the upper deck of the 77 bus in Tallaght at the weekend, and is currently pretty badly shook up in hospital.

Thrown off the upper deck of a bus. Isn’t that astonishing? And if it is, why hasn’t it been front page news? In his efforts to faithfully chronicle contemporary Irish life, An Spailpín likes to keep an eye on these things, and this story is definitely well under the news radar.

What about the comments of John McGrane of the National Bus and Rail Union, reported in this morning’s Independent, that they will have no option other than not to go to Tallaght anymore if the gardaí aren’t going to protect their drivers? An Spailpín isn’t the greatest Irish public service union man in the world, but it’s very hard not to see Mr McGrane’s point.

Not least when we discover that a man being thrown off the upper deck of the 77 bus is only one of twenty-five reported incidents on buses serving west Tallaght in the past month alone. These include:

  • A passenger’s coat being set on fire
  • A bus driver being spat at in the face
  • A child being assaulted
  • A bus being set on fire
  • Fighting in the upper deck
  • Drug-taking in the upper deck

On reading that list of depravity, we quickly realise that it’s not just the bus drivers that need protection here. All his life, An Spailpín has heard about how Tallaght is one of the fastest growing and biggest towns in Ireland, and how its needs need to be looked after. So what An Spailpín now wants to know is: what is the government doing to protect the ordinary, decent people of Tallaght, who are in the overwhelming majority, as we are always reminded whenever these reports of so-called “anti-social behaviour” occur? What steps are being taken to stop Joe or Jane Citizen from having their clothing set on fire, their bus set on fire, their means of getting to and from work being set on fire, their children being spat at or assaulted?

The gougers rule the city of Dublin. We saw it during the riots, we see it every day in the city, and we sit back and accept it. There is zero political will to deal with the issue and in the meantime ordinary decent people have to get up and go to work without knowing what sort of foul horror will confront them once they get on their bus. And what do they get in return? Lectures about inequality in society on the op-ed pages of the Irish Times.

What they don’t get are results. What they have to suffer every day doesn’t even make the news. An Spailpín has searched today’s Irish Times in vain for the story about the potential disruption in bus services to Tallaght, and he can’t find it. Here’s the link to the Article Index in today's Irish Times – happy hunting.

The Irish Times isn’t slow to laud itself as the paper of record, but on an issue that affects a huge tranche of the population it has nothing to report. Zero. Zip. The null set. Madam ought to be ashamed of herself. As for any poor dumb bastard that’s trying to commute to and from Tallaght, may God help you, because nobody else gives a fiddler’s. Only losers take the bus.

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