Dublin, Ireland

Transport Links, Racism Divides

Immigrant Council of Ireland with Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, National Transport Authority and Veolia Transport Dublin

June 27, 2013

An anti-racism campaign focuses on public transportation and includes staff training and improved reporting systems

Arundhati experiences verbal abuse daily as a fare inspector for Dublin’s Light Rail Tram Service. Being an easy target for abuse is an exhausting price to pay simply to do one’s job. And for frontline public transport workers like Arundhati, an immigrant background can also raise the disturbing spectre of racism.

Racist incidents also pose a danger to the safety and comfort of commuters. So when reports of racial abuse of city transport workers found their way into local media, transportation companies like Dublin Bus, the National Transport Authority, Veolia Transport Dublin Light Rail Ltd, and Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann) banded together to do something about it.

The result?  Dublin’s Transport Links, Racism Divides, a high profile publicity campaign across the city’s buses, trams, trains and taxis. And back at head office? Staff training, improved monitoring and reporting of incidents.

A city on the move

Traditionally a country of emigration, Ireland’s years of economic boom have attracted a significant wave of migrants; 2011 census data indicates the share of migrants in Ireland is over 17% and in parts of Dublin as high as 50%. Integration is working; naturalization rates are high. Ireland regularly recruits skilled migrants from abroad, and pitches its education system as one of the best globally, hosting large numbers of international students.

The workforce is changing too. People of diverse ethnic backgrounds are well represented in public services as well as in the private sector. This diversity is reflected in the employees of major transport companies. Dublin Bus, for example, employs 3200 employees, 15% of which are migrants.

Changes like these require innovative responses when problems arise. When Dublin Bus, Veolia and others were investigating the increasing number of racial incidents, they also discovered that drivers and inspectors were reporting lack of knowledge on how to deal with these situations. Suddenly, the issues were not only about racism, but about the management of a diverse workforce.

To address these issues, the transport companies came together to form a partnership to engage Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI)  to devise a strategy that all parties could support and actively promote.

Taking Racism Seriously

ICI has a long history of dealing with migrant issues, including leading such successful public information campaigns as “Did You Know You Can Vote?” and “Count Us In.” After examining reports of racism that had been registered with its Racist Incident Support and Referral Service, it conducted three separate focus groups – Asian healthcare workers, Dublin Bus drivers originally from Africa, and a multi-ethnic group from Veolia Transport. While many of the participants were naturalized Irish citizens, they discussed the kinds of everyday racism they faced in their jobs, and the feeling that their complaints were not properly understood by management. In 2011, these findings were published in the report Taking Racism Seriously: Migrants’ Experiences of Violence, Harassment and Anti-Social Behaviour in the Dublin Area.

This research was the basis of the partnership ICI forged with Dublin transport companies and resulted in the development of a new campaign to help stamp out racism on public transport, called Dublin’s Transport Links, Racism Divides, co-sponsored by Dublin City Council. The campaign involved developing posters and ads, holding a photo call which featured employees of the transport companies and a media campaign. The slogan and advertising were displayed by the public transport partners on buses, trams and suburban trains.

To further the campaign’s reach, the National Transport Authority (NTA) contacted Dublin’s 12,000 licensed taxi drivers – earning the NTA a Metro Eireann’s Africa Day Award on May 25th 2013 for their exceptional efforts. Campaign ads were also prominently displayed close to the taxi stands at the Dublin airport.

Back at head office

In addition to the public awareness campaign, the transport companies provided staff with training and developed innovative systems for reporting racist incidents that could improve institutional response to racism on trains, trams and buses. A mobile phone app was designed to engage younger and social media savvy commuters who were encouraged to capture episodes of abuse in images or to report incidents to a public e-commons accessible via a special “stop racism” email address.

Says Gerry Murphy, Chief Executive of the National Transport Authority: “Neither transport users nor transport employees should ever be subject to racist comment or attack. We have taken this initiative, with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, to ensure that all transport staff are trained, and that high profile messaging is immediately visible across Dublin’s transport modes – buses, trains and trams – stating clearly that we will not tolerate any racism.”


The launch of the anti-racism awareness campaign was timed to coincide with the International Day Against Racism on March 21, 2013 and the European Week Against Racism. The campaign resulted in a significant increase in reports of racist incident, suggesting that the campaign’s clear messages and high level support from Dublin City Council, transportation authorities and citizens paid off, giving victims of abuse the confidence to report what had previously gone unreported. Future plans include expanding the campaign to other Irish cities in time for the 2014 International Day Against Racism.

Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said: “While we are currently responding to one serious racist incident a week, it is clear a lot more goes unreported. Complacency is one of the greatest barriers we must overcome in terms of racism and this united front will assure people that this is a problem which the [transport] operators are determined to confront.”

This joint effort on the part of the transport companies models good corporate behavior, and shows how responsible employers can protect workers and the wider community from racist incidents. Actions like this make cities better, safer and more inclusive.

Contributions from Fidèle Mutwarasibo, Immigrant Council of Ireland, and Anna Ludwinek, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, edited for publication.

This Good Idea will be featured in “Marketplace of Good Ideas” at the 2014 Cities of Migration conference in Berlin. Learn more about the conference.

Making it Work for You:

  • Research the issue to learn about the extent of the problem in your community. Those findings will be the basis of media campaign to provide to journalists.
  • Partnerships widen the reach of a campaign. Identify as many like-minded organizations as possible to work with, but remember to look for new or less-likely partners that can spark the interests of new audiences.
  • If you can launch your campaign on the same day as another high profile community event, you will gain greater visibility.
  • Victims of racist attacks and abuse are often reluctant to report incidents. Use the campaign to empower them to speak out about their experiences and help others combat racism.

For this Good Idea contact:

Fidèle Mutwarasibo, Immigrant Council of Ireland
2 St Andrew Street
Dublin, Ireland,