A busy city bus service is under threat of being shut down after numerous attacks in which stones were thrown at the vehicles.
The service, run in Kilkenny city, has been hit five times this year alone and now Gardaí say they are determined to bring to justice those involved in the frightening incidents.
Several similar incidents occurred in 2020, almost a year since the much-needed service began. The majority of the bus users are elderly residents and commuters.
Garda Inspector Paul Donohoe from the Divisional Roads section said: “It’s really getting out of hand, and it’s frightening for those bus drivers, other motorists and truck drivers.”
He added: “We are actively looking to catch these people doing this and will work until we get them, to get the safety of our bus drivers.
“We would be delighted if the public would help us to stop this because it’s just so dangerous and someone will be seriously injured if not killed from an accident. It scares me to think what could happen.”
Gardaí are probing CCTV footage from the bus which recorded the latest incident. Plain clothes officers have been boarding some buses while in service in a bid to prevent and catch the perpetrators.
Other stone throwing incidents have occurred around the Purcellsinch and Johnswell road ares of the city.
The latest incident occurred on Saturday, March 20th at 7.30pm when a City Direct bus was attacked while in the vicinity of the Hebron Road Roundabout as it travelled along the Ring Road. Two other vehicles were also damaged by the stone-throwing.
Willie Tiernan, the driver of the bus on Saturday told local radio station KCLRfm what happened: “It was frightening. I was coming from the hospital to Purcellsinch. I heard this big bang and I and others (bus drivers) are expecting it. I knew what it was straight away.
“I pulled in after the roundabout. I was afraid pulling over the vehicle to see what damage was done. A white Audi pulled in front of me along with another car. Both cars were hit but thankfully no-one was injured. I want to say to these people who are doing this to stop once and for all.
“I want to point out the danger of it. If it was their father, mother or relation driving a car, and it was done to them they wouldn’t like it.”
Mr Tiernan said all the bus drivers want to get on with their jobs.
"The window would shatter automatically and the driver would not be able to see which could result in them going into another vehicle such as an oncoming truck or into people walking on the footpath. I dread to think of the aftermath.
"The bus drivers have not done anything to the people who are doing this. I’m pleading with these people to stop. We are trying to provide a service to the hard-working and decent people of this community. People fought to get this bus service, so I don’t understand why people are doing this," he said.
"I wonder are the people doing this bored. If it is teenagers that are doing this, I would appeal to their parents to do something about this. I hope these people are dealt with the gardaí. I have no doubt there will be a fatality if these incidents continue. My family are worried and nervous about me driving the bus.
I used to work in the army for 35 years and I did two missions abroad, in the Lebanon, so I know what bombs are like, and I tell you one thing it wasn’t half as bad as it is going up and down that Ring Road.
"We shouldn’t have to be in this situation. We are not living in a warzone. I used to work in the army for 35 years and I did two missions abroad, in the Lebanon, so I know what bombs are like, and I tell you one thing it wasn’t half as bad as it is going up and down that Ring Road (in Kilkenny). They are carrying out these incidents in the dark and not during daylight,” Mr Tiernan added.
Local Fine Gael TD, and former minister of State, John Paul Phelan said it took 10 years for the bus service to get the go-ahead and described the incidents as “thuggery”.
Mr Phelan said gardaí will continue their investigations and continue to board the bus.
“This needs to be cracked down on. This kind of behaviour can be so frustrating. There are rules and laws that apply to all ages.”
City Mayor John Coonan has already warned about the future of the service should the vandalism continue. He promised that “every effort continues to be made” to protect the city bus service.
No decision has yet been made by Council officials and Gardaí on whether the bus service will be continued.