Eddie Creighton's Pub
(Represented by O'Dowd Solicitors)
Equal Status Acts, 2000-2004 - Direct discrimination, Section 3(1)(a) - Traveller community ground, Section 3(2)(i) - Disposal of goods and supply of services, Section 5(1) - Refusal of service, Establishment of Prima facie case
Delegation under the Equal Status Act 2000
This complaint was referred to the Director of the Equality Investigations under the Equal Status Act 2000 In accordance with her powers under Section 75 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 and under the Equal Status Act 2000, the Director has delegated the complaint to me Mary O'Callaghan, 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 2000-2004. The hearing of the case took place in Sligo on Thursday 2nd February, 2006.
1.1 The complainant alleges that he was subjected to discriminatory treatment when he sought service in Eddie Creighton's Public House in Boyle on the night of December 26th 2001 and was refused. He maintains that the treatment he received was in terms of Section 3 (2) (i) of the Equal Status Act 2000 contrary to Section 5(i) of the Act i.e. that he was refused access to goods and services because of his membership of the Traveller community.
1.2 The respondent licensee/s maintain that the complainant was not served because he had been barred from the premises previously due to his behaviour and because he had come into the pub showing the marks of a fight he had been in and which he described to one of the respondents. He denies the complainant's Traveller status played any part in the decision to refuse him service.
2. Summary of the Complainant's Case
2.1 The complainant said that he went to Creighton's Public House on the evening of 29th December 2001. He had been in another pub beforehand with a few friends and he went on his own to Creighton's. He had been served there previously but he said that on occasions he had been asked embarrassing questions by one of the owners of the pub which he suggested were designed to identify him as a Traveller to other pub patrons. Mr. O'Donnell said he ordered a pint of Guinness and was refused by the owner, Mr. Creighton. He requested an explanation and was told "you know yourself and leave it at that." He said he took that to mean the refusal related to his membership of the Traveller community.
2.2 Mr. O'Donnell said that the entire incident lasted for 2-3 minutes and that there were about 12-15 people in the pub at the time. After the refusal he left and went to another pub where he was again refused. At that point he reported the matter to the Gardai and then returned to the original pub he had been in that night and was served. He said he was never given a proper reason for the refusal although there had been a written response from a solicitor to his notification of complaint. He said that he had heard that there was a meeting of publicans in the Boyle area with the aim of conspiring to exclude him and other Travellers from licensed premises in the Boyle area around this time. When asked what he thought the reason for the refusal was, Mr O'Donnell said that he was refused because he was member of the Traveller community and that there was no other possible reason. He said there were no other Travellers in the pub when he was there.
2.3 Mr. O'Donnell disputed the respondent's evidence that he called for a glass of Guinness on entering the pub as this was not his habit. He only ordered pints.
2.4 Evidence was also provided by Mr Charlie Ward an acquaintance of the complainant who said that he and his wife had been refused in Creighton's on a separate occasion and that he had informed Mr O'Donnell of this when they were talking about refusals one day when they were on a fishing trip.
3. Summary of the Respondent's Case.
3.1 The respondents Mr. and Mrs. Creighton said that they had been running the pub for about 15 years at the time of the incident complained of. It is a large pub and is generally busy at weekend and has a good mixed trade of locals and passers through. They said a number of their regular customers are Travellers who are natives of Boyle and members of their families who visit from time to time. They said that the complainant would have been known to them as a Traveller. Mr. Creighton said that he recalled the complainant coming into the pub alone on the 29th December 2001 and ordering a glass of Guinness and that he was refused.
3.2 He said that the complainant was refused in 2001 because he had been already barred by Mrs. Creighton in 1999 when she had become aware from Mr. O'Donnell himself of his involvement in a violent incident in the town.
3.3 Mrs. Creighton also said that the behaviour of the complainant when he was a customer in Creighton's in the period leading up to the barring gave her cause for concern for her safety and the safety of others on the premises. She said that the behaviour of the complainant over that period had become increasingly aggressive when he was drinking and it used to intimidate and frighten her. The Creighton's said that they did not attend any meeting organised by Boyle vintners aimed at excluding Travellers from local pubs.
3.4 Mrs. Creighton denied the complainant's allegation that she had asked the complainant to read her palm or asked him about arranged marriages when he was in the pub previously.
3.5 Mr. Michael O'Boyle appeared as a witness on behalf of the respondent. He is a customer of the pub and is also a member of the Garda Siochana. He said he was in the pub on the evening complained of. He gave evidence that he noticed Mr. O'Donnell come into the pub that evening and although he didn't hear a conversation between Mr. O' Donnell and the respondent's he recalled remarking that Mr. O'Donnell left very quickly. He said he knew Mr. O'Donnell as a Traveller who lived in the town and had seen him being served in Creighton's previously.
4. Conclusions of the Equality Officer
4.1 I must first consider whether the complainant in this case Tommy O'Donnell has established a prima facie case of discrimination. In order to do so the complainant must satisfy three criteria. It must be established that he is covered by the relevant discriminatory ground i.e. in this case that he is a member of the Traveller community. It must also be established that the actions complained of actually occurred and finally it must be shown that the treatment of the complainant was less favourable than the treatment that would be afforded to another person in similar circumstances who was not a member of the Traveller community. Regarding the first and second of these criteria it is not contested that the complainant is a Traveller or that he was refused service on 29th December 2001 and accordingly these two elements of the test are established.
4.2 In considering whether the third of the above three criteria has been met, i.e., that the complainant was subjected to less favourable treatment than someone who is not a member of the Traveller Community would have in similar circumstances, I have looked at the evidence provided by the parties and witnesses and have concluded the respondents' evidence in relation to the refusal and the events contributing to it is a more compelling account of the situation and that it has been shown on the balance of probabilities that the complainant was barred at the time of this refusal. I consider that any person entering Creighton's pub who was barred would have been refused by the respondents on the evening complained of regardless of his/her status and accordingly I conclude that Tommy O'Donnell has not established a prima-facie case of Discrimination on the Traveller community ground.
5.1 I find that the Tommy O' Donnell has not established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller community ground and that his complaint (ES/2002/0211) is not upheld (DEC-S2006-013).
28th February 2006