Violent clashes that erupted between rival GAA fans on a Belfast-bound train have been condemned by Ireland’s largest trade union.
Representatives from the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) said the incident – which unfolded on a packed Enterprise service from Dublin on Saturday night – was “very distressing” for passengers and staff aboard the train.
The union said it was seeking an urgent meeting with Translink management to ensure that both members of the public and train staff are protected from the kind of scenes experienced at the weekend.
Translink is investigating a brawl which led to the train making an emergency stop outside Drogheda.
The Garda were called to the incident and although no arrests were made, several passengers were removed from the train carrying a large number of Armagh and Tyrone GAA fans as well as Liverpool fans from the Province who had travelled to see their team in Dublin.
Describing the incident as a “dangerous and volatile situation”, SIPTU organiser, Niall McNally added: “Our members said that before boarding, a large number of passengers were clearly inebriated and carrying alcohol on to the train.
“Women with children and elderly people complained to Enterprise staff and expressed grave concerns for their safety.”
Mr McNally said Translink introduced a new alcohol policy in January 2017, but SIPTU members have claimed that the guidelines and protocols are not being enforced by Translink with any consistency.
“This is not the first time that staff have expressed their fears to Translink management in relation to the company’s attitude to the consumption of alcohol on the service,” he said.
A Translink spokesperson said the company has a policy that only alcohol purchased on board the Enterprise train can be consumed on the train.
“We are currently reviewing the implementation of this policy,” the spokesperson added.
Several passengers said they saw fans of both Armagh and Tyrone GAA teams involved in a brawl, with video footage appearing to show rival fans engaging in fist fights.
Mr McNally SIPTU members had been threatened with physical attack as they sought to defuse the situation, adding: “They were placed in a position for which they are neither trained nor equipped to handle.”
The train remained outside Drogheda for around 30 minutes so that the Garda could be in place at the station for the train’s arrival at around 10pm.
Local police said the incident was a matter for the Garda as it took place outside PSNI jurisdiction.
A spokesperson for Translink confirmed that “some passengers were involved in an affray on board” the 8.50pm Enterprise service.