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May 27, 2003

Anger at 11 - year - old thrown off bus

From: Down Democrat, UK - May 27, 2003

A ROW has erupted between local parents and Translink over an incident involving a public bus travelling from Belfast to Downpatrick.

A number of teenagers were kicked off the 6.15pm service in Crossgar on Saturday May 17.

Translink said during the journey, abusive language was being used and a series of objects thrown at the driver from "a minority" of passengers.

"Despite repeated warnings to the group and attempts to stop the behaviour, the disturbance continued," a spokeswoman from the company said.

"The actions of the individuals posed a threat to their own safety and that of fellow passengers.

"The driver was left with no choice but to request assistance from Crossgar Police Station."

Nine passengers were subsequently asked to leave the bus before it continued its journey to Downpatrick.

Translink said the bus was later inspected where it was noted a seat and other internal materials had been damaged.

The company is now operating a reward scheme offering up to £1,000 for anyone who can provide evidence that would lead to a prosecution.

However one mother of the passengers booted off said her 11-year-old daughter was among them and had done nothing wrong.

Kelly Laird from Killough said daughter Rachel had been on her first outing by bus to Belfast with her aunt - Kelly's 13-year-old sister Grainne.

"When my daughter was thrown off that bus, she was absolutely terrified," Ms Laird said.

"It was bad enough the Police being called in but my daughter is also slightly deaf and it was the first time she had travelled by bus to Belfast.

"She was left crying on the street in Crossgar and had to find her way home. "She is 11-years-old - just a child.

"I feel disgusted and angry by the way she was treated."

Ms Laird said her daughter walked with the others to Downpatrick before getting a taxi home to Killough.

From setting out from Belfast at 6.15pm, Rachel did not get home until around 10pm.

"I phoned my sister's mobile at one stage worried about where they were," Ms Laird said.

"But my sister told me the bus had broken down in Crossgar and they were getting a taxi home from Downpatrick.

"She was too afraid to tell me what had happened and I did not discover the truth until they got home."

Ms Laird said she was now sending a letter of complaint to Translink about the incident.

Sinn Fein Councillor Eamonn McConvey supports her action.

He is also calling for the Police Ombudsman to get involved in the case.

"I would like to know how and why the Police were called in to escort an 11-year-old girl with a medical condition off the bus and onto the street.

"Surely they could see she was only a child.

"I will be asking for the families to get in touch with the Police Ombudsman so an investigation can be carried out into the affair as soon as possible."

© Down Democrat, 2003 .