Michael, Lisa, Mary and Hugh Nevin
(Represented by McGovern Solicitors)
Gormans Bar (Roscommon)
(Represented by JJ Quinn Solicitors)
Michael, Lisa, Mary and Hugh Nevin 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 Complainant's case
On 22nd February 2003 the complainants, who live in Longford, entered Gormans at around 9:20pm. They had been in a pub in Longford but had not had anything to drink when they entered Gormans. The two gentlemen ordered drinks and were told "Membership only". Mary Nevin asked what was meant by this and was told to get the local Gardai to say it was okay to serve them. They called the Gardai and spoke to a female Garda in Granard who knew nothing about membership. They told the landlady that they would be looking into this refusal. She replied "That is your right, that is the way things have gone". They left the bar. They feel that they were singled out to be sent to the Gardai because they are Travellers.
Summary of the Respondent's Case
Ms. Gorman stated that as the complainants entered and ordered she noticed that they 'had drink on them'. She hesitated and then said "Regular customers". From the way they spoke she could tell that they had had quite a few drinks. Because of the trouble which had taken place in a nearby pub and in the town in previous weeks Ms. Gorman was very cautious and wary and had been advised by Gardai to take care as to who she served. She refused the complainants because she did not know them and because she felt they had been drinking. She argued that given the climate in the town at the time her actions were perfectly reasonable. Evidence was presented in relation to the trouble which had taken place in the town earlier that month and to the advice given to publicans following that trouble
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
I am satisfied, and the respondent accepted, that the complainants are members of the Traveller community. It is also agreed that a refusal of service took place. What is in dispute is the reason for that refusal. The complainants maintain that they were refused only because they are Travellers. The Respondent maintains that they were refused because they were unknown to her and because they had been drinking, both against a background of recent trouble in the town.
I am satisfied that the climate in Edgeworthstown was as described and that publicans were on their guard as to new customers. On the basis of the evidence presented at the hearing I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the respondent would have taken that position regardless of the background of customers. I am satisfied that unknown non-Traveller customers requesting service who appeared to have been drinking would also have been refused. I find that the complainants have failed to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that the refusal was based only on 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.
30th May 2006