Margaret and Martin Mongan
Railway Bar, Co. Roscommon
(Ms. A Mina BL, acting on instructions from Martin J. Neilan & Co. Solicitors)
Margaret and Martin Mongan each referred a claim to the Director of Equality Investigations under the Equal Status Act 2000. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of the Employment Equality Act, the Director then delegated the case to me, Bernadette Treanor, an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part III of the Equal Status Act.
Summary of the Complainants' case
The Mongans entered the Railway Bar on Christmas Eve 2002 at around 9.45pm and Mr. Mongan went to the bar to order. They had been to a number of bars before the Railway Bar and they had taken three drinks. The barmaid went away and came back with Mr. Kiernan who shook his head and walked away. This happened twice more each time Mr. Mongan asked the barmaid to get Mr. Kiernan. On each occasion Mr. Kiernan walked away without comment. Eventually Mr. and Mrs. Mongan left. The complainants feel that the refusal was based on their membership of the Traveller community because Mr. Kiernan ignored them and would not speak to them. At the hearing the Mongans denied the allegations made by the respondent's witness and stated that they left home at 7pm and had not taken a drink at that stage.
Summary of the Respondent's Case
Mr. Kiernan junior came on duty at 9pm on Christmas Eve 2002. The Mongans came in at about 9:45 and the barmaid fetched Mr. Kiernan. Based on what she said and on his own assessment he formed the opinion that Mr. Mongan was intoxicated so he shook his head and walked away. Mr. Mongan went to speak to his wife who was sitting down and returned to the bar and again Mr. Kiernan shook his head and walked away without comment. Mr. Kiernan stated that he never enters into conversation when refusing customers as he believes this often antagonises the situation. A witness for the respondent stated that, while working, he had seen the complainants drinking in another pub at around 4:30 on the afternoon of Christmas Eve 2002. He also stated that the complainants were in his own bar later when he came on duty at around 7:30. He formed the opinion that the complainants were intoxicated at that stage and when another drink was ordered he told them they had enough. After some heated comments the complainants left the witness's pub. The respondent asserts that if the complainants were already intoxicated at 7:30 then they were intoxicated at 9:45 after taking more alcohol and he was justified in refusing them.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
It was agreed that the complainants are members of the Traveller community and that a refusal took place. The matter in dispute is the reason for that refusal and whether or not the complainants were drinking from 4pm or 7:30pm. The complainants asserted that the only reason for the refusal could be their membership of the Traveller community. On the other hand the respondent stated that his assessment of the complainants was that they were intoxicated and that this informed his decision not to serve them. He stated that his policy in respect of refusals included never serving those he considered intoxicated. The complainants had no corroborating evidence that they had only taken three drinks before entering the respondent premises. The respondent's witness was clear that he had seen them drinking at around 4pm and that he had refused them service himself around 7:30 pm because in his opinion they already had enough.
On the basis of the evidence presented the complainants have failed to satisfy me on the balance of probabilities that the reason for the refusal was their membership of the Traveller community. Therefore I find that they have failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground.
I find that the complainants have failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground and therefore this decision is in favour of the respondent.
23rd February 2006