Gay man’s birthday celebrations end with him being brutally beaten on a bus: ‘Justice will happen’

In these side-by-side photographs, Mark Sheehan is blooded and bandaged with a swollen nose

Police in Ireland are examining “high-quality” CCTV footage that captured the shocking moment a gay man was brutally beaten on a Dublin bus.

Investigators hope the footage will shed new light on the suspected homophobic attack that has disturbed and appalled LGBTQ+ people, as well as the Irish Parliament.

In the early hours of 14 August, 26-year-old Mark Sheehan was attacked as he returned home with friends after celebrating his birthday at The George nightclub.

Shortly before 4am, a group of men on the bus began hurling slurs such as “queer”, “emo freak” and “f****t” about the way the group were dressed.

As the bus pulled into Templeogue village in south Dublin, one of the men kicked Sheehan’s earphones out of his hands before head-butting him on the upper deck.

“I looked down and saw blood covering my shoes,” he wrote in a Facebook post the following day. “I went down to the driver asking him to call the Garda immediately and not to move the bus.

“He told me to get off before they come down and cause more trouble. No one intervened and the driver took off with the attacker still on the bus.”

Sheehan and his friends got off at Firhouse Road to call an ambulance, which took the victim to Tallaght Hospital.

“I don’t understand why they singled us out and antagonised us so much. I have lost my property and potentially have a broken nose. I am to go for a scan after the swelling subsides,” Sheehan, who works at outsourcing firm Covalen Solutions, added.

State-owned Dublin Bus said in a statement to PinkNews: “Dublin Bus can confirm that we received a complaint regarding an incident involving a customer on Route 15 on Sunday, 14 August, 2022. This incident is being fully investigated.”

Irish politicians call for police transport unit ‘without delay’ after homophobic attack on Dublin bus

Garda sources told the Irish Examiner that the force has obtained “very, very high quality” video of the incident and shows the faces of the perpetrators, who Sheehan guessed were aged between 16 and 24.

The footage has been shared widely throughout the Garda but has yet to be made public. Investigators expect the youths themselves will come forward, given the nature of similar attacks in the past.

Sheehan himself remains hopeful. “They were very very stupid to do this, on a bus with cameras and witnesses no less. Justice will happen,” he said on Facebook on Tuesday (16 August), sharing photos of his still swollen nose.

The incident has renewed calls among members of the Irish government’s Dáil Éireann for strengthened police powers as well as a dedicated transport police system.

Martin Kenny, Sin Féin’s justice equality and law reform spokesperson, called on justice minister Helen McEntee and transport minister Eamon Ryan to establish the unit “without any further delay”.

In this photograph, a pair of white trainers can be seen splattered with blood

Mark Sheehan shared a photograph of his trainers moments after the attack. (Facebook/Mark Sheehan)

“Everyone has a right to feel safe on our streets, in their homes, and going about their daily business. I wish to extend my solidarity with the victim of this cowardly act of violence,” the Sligo-Leitrim parliamentary member said in a statement.

“I wish him a speedy recovery and hope that there is sufficient CCTV footage to bring the perpetrator to justice.

“The fact that this attack happened on a Dublin Bus once again underlines the need to establish a transport policing system.”

Kenny said that Ireland’s public transit system has seen increasing levels of wrongdoing, with “last night’s homophobic attack is the latest example of this”.

He added: “It is simply not acceptable any longer for the government to sit on their hands while this continues to fester.”

Ireland currently does not have any specific legislation to deal with hate crimes, though the police can log incidents as fueled by homophobia in the PULSE Garda system.

This means that Sheehan’s attack is being considered an assault, rather than a hate crime. Police will be able to provide evidence of homophobia as an aggravating factor to the judge.

The lack of a legal framework for hate crimes often means the hatred that fuels such incidents goes unrecorded. Hate elements are not reflected in charges against the accused, meaning they may never be raised to a jury.

Campaigners have long been calling on the government to introduce hate crime laws. Nine in 10 Irish LGBTQ+ people feel doing so should be a top priority, according to a 2016 report from the National LGBT Federation.