Peter and Sheila McDonnell
Dolan's Bar & Lounge, Mullingar
(represented by J.A. Shaw & Co., Solicitors)
Equal Status Act 2000 - Direct discrimination, section 3(1)(a) - Membership of the Traveller community, section 3(2)(i) - Discrimination by association, Section 3(1)(b), - Supply of goods and services, section 5(1) - Refusal of admission to a pub
Sheila McDonnell, who is a member of the Traveller community, claims that, on 5 October 2002, she and her husband, a non-Traveller, were refused entrance to Dolan's Pub by the owner Mr Colin Dolan. The complainants state that when Mr McDonnell asked for a reason, Mr Dolan referred to "excess baggage" and pointed towards Sheila McDonnell. The complainants stated that Mr Dolan also made the remark that "Peter is barred out of here anyway" which they say was never the case.
The complainants believe that Mr Dolan referred to Mrs McDonnell as "excess baggage" as he knew her to be a member of the Traveller community. The complainants claim that Mrs McDonnell was discriminated against because of her membership of the Traveller community and that her husband, who is a non-Traveller, was discriminated against by association because of his marriage to a member of the Traveller community.
At the Hearing on 1 May 2006, the complainants produced two companions, Caroline McDonnell and P.J.Grey, who were with them on 5 October 2002 and both gave evidence that they heard Mr Dolan make the comment "its your excess baggage" when speaking to Peter McDonnell. Ms McDonnell recalls Mr Dolan pointing at Sheila McDonnell when making the comment while Mr Grey recalls hearing the comment but says that he did not understand at the time what was meant by it.
The respondents denied that discrimination was a factor in the refusal on 5 October 2002. Mr Colin Dolan stated at the Hearing that he was not aware of Mrs McDonnell's Traveller background at the time. In reply, Mrs McDonnell disputed this saying that Mr Dolan would definitely have known of her Traveller identity and that he had barred other members of her family because they were Travellers. hMr Dolan explained that there was a specific reason for refusing access to the group and that it related to a threatening phone-call he had received in the mid-1990s. He described how he had received a call from a man with a "northern accent" saying that his family would be "beaten up" if he continued to serve Peter McDonnell and some other identified customers. Mr Dolan said that he took the threat seriously and reported it to two Gardai in a squad car but did not make a formal report of the matter at the local Garda Station. He heard nothing further from the Gardai in the matter.
As a result, Mr Dolan said that Mr McDonnell was not permitted on to his premises thereafter. He said that he explained all of this to Mr McDonnell at the time. At the Hearing, Mr McDonnell denied that he had ever been told by Mr Dolan of the alleged "threatening phonecall". Mr McDonnell maintained that he had visited Dolan's pub on a number of occasions since the mid-1990s and explained that it was only in recent years that he had stopped going, because of concerns about his health.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
In considering the respondent's explanation that Mr McDonnell was refused because of a "threatening phone-call", what strikes me is the fact that it was only at the Hearing that this explanation for the refusal was put forward. If , as Colin Dolan maintains, Peter McDonnell had been told in the mid-1990s that he was barred because of the threatening phone-call, I cannot understand why Mr Dolan did not remind him of this reason when he got the original complaint notification from the complainants in October 2002. I also cannot understand why the respondent or his representatives did not put forward this explanation to the Tribunal prior to the Hearing when afforded the opportunity by the Equality Officer to submit further observations.
In the circumstances, I have difficulty in accepting the respondents' explanation for the refusal on 5 October 2002.
With regard to the complainants' evidence that the refusal occurred because of Sheila McDonnell's Traveller identity and that she was referred to as "excess baggage", I find that it is supported by the testimony of two credible witnesses who both maintain that they heard Mr Dolan referring to "excess baggage" when refusing the group on the night.
Having deliberated on the above points and on the totality of the evidence before me, I find, on the balance of probabilities, that the decision to refuse admission to the complainants on 5 October 2002 was due to Colin Dolan's awareness of Sheila McDonnell's Traveller identity and I also consider that the term "excess baggage" was used in reference to Ms McDonnell on the night.
I, therefore, find that the complainants have established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller community ground and that the respondents have failed to rebut the allegation. Accordingly, I find that the complainants were discriminated against on 5 October 2002 contrary to the provisions of the Equal Status Act 2000.
I find that Sheila McDonnell has established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller community ground in terms of sections 3(1), and 3(2)(i) of the Equal Status Act 2000 and that Peter McDonnell has established a prima facie case in terms of Section 3(1)(b) of the Act. I also find that the respondents have failed to rebut the allegation.
I order that each complainant be paid redress of €600 for the hurt, humiliation and loss of amenity suffered on 5 October 2002.
I also order that, should the complainants ever decide to visit Dolan's pub again, that they be admitted and treated in accordance with the same terms and conditions that apply to all other customers.
25 July 2006