Gardaí are examining “high-quality” CCTV footage capturing a suspected homophobic assault on a Dublin Bus, which left a young man with serious facial injuries.
Investigators are said to be impressed by the standard of the recording and are now hopeful of identifying the suspects and solving the case.
Mark Sheehan went public on social media about the attack, which occurred in the early hours of last Sunday morning as he and friends returned home after a night out celebrating passing his driving test and the birthdays of two friends.
They got on the Number 15 bus to Templeogue in South Dublin and the alleged attack occurred on the Firhouse Road at 4am.
Speaking to the, the 26-year-old said he and his friends were subjected to repeated homophobic abuse and jeering by a group of youths, who he estimated ranged in age from perhaps 16 to 24.
At one stage, one of the youths kicked his headphones out of his hands.
He said he tried to look for his phones and asked the person why he did that when another youth threatened him.
He said he was leaving the upper floor of the bus with friends and one of the group ran up and headbutted him, causing blood to pour onto his runners and the floor.
Getting off the bus, one of his friends had already called for an ambulance, which picked him up and took him to Tallaght Hospital.
“Gardaí came to the hospital and took a verbal statement from me,” he said.
He said he was due to give a detailed formal statement to investigating gardaí on Wednesday.
Gardaí visited him at his home on Tuesday and he said they seemed pleased about the progress of their inquiries to date but that they couldn’t say very much.
He said his nose was too swollen for doctors to determine if it was fractured or broken.
“They asked me could I tell if it was misaligned and it is and the bruising has got a bit worse today,” he said.
Mr Sheehan was also due to attend his GP and organise a scan.
Garda sources said the footage from the bus was of “very, very high quality” and shows both the attack and the faces of those involved.
Gardaí are in the process of trying to identify the youths concerned and have circulated the images internally in the organisation to see if any member knows who they are.
Sources expect this to be successful, but if it is not, they can consult with people in the youth and education sector to assist them.
Given past experience, some officers suspect the individuals concerned, or some of them, may willingly come forward to gardaí.
The Garda team will also try and track down the witnesses to the attack, who were on the bus at the time.
They have already made an appeal for any witnesses to come forward.
Gardaí are happy with the progress so far in the investigation and sources indicated they were confident of being able to solve the case.
As there is, as of yet, no specific laws on hate crimes, gardaí are investigating it as an assault. Sources said while that is the offence recorded on the Garda Pulse system, it will be flagged as a homophobic attack in relation to motivation.
If charges are brought, gardaí will give evidence regarding motivation and the judge can take this into account as an aggravating factor in terms of sentencing.
The incident has sparked renewed calls for a dedicated Garda transport unit, which Garda authorities have repeatedly said they were not disposed to at this time and that various operations were in place to address the issue.
The Policing Authority highlighted earlier this week ongoing staffing shortages within the organisation, and both it, and Commissioner Drew Harris, have called on the Government to revisit planned Garda strength levels.