The Imperial Hotel, Tuam
(represented by O'Dea Solicitors)
The complainant states that she visited the Imperial Hotel on 3 March 2001 with her mother and sister but, having been served one round of drinks, they were subsequently refused further service. She maintains that she was refused because she was a member of the Traveller community.
The respondents rejected that they operated a discriminatory policy against Travellers. They maintain that the complainant was part of a larger group who were all barred after the previous New Years Eve, because of the threatening behaviour of some of the group on the night.
Evidence of Parties
Mrs Corcoran confirmed that she was a regular in the Imperial Hotel over the years and had no problem getting served before. At the Hearing, Mrs Corcoran gave evidence that she had been in the hotel on New Years Eve and had gone there with her late mother and sister for a drink.
Over the course of the evening other Travellers who she did not know arrived and sat at the same set of long tables as her. They engaged her in conversation and, out of courtesy, she chatted with them on and off over the course of the night.
She recalls two Travellers in the group starting to shout loudly at each other towards the end of the night and the Gardai being called, although no one was removed from the premises.
he does not think that she returned again to the hotel until 3 March 2001. On that occasion she was served one round and then refused service by the barman. She has only been back to the hotel once since then.
The Hotel's Duty Manager, Mr Fursey O'Loughlin, gave evidence at the Hearing on 13 June 2007 that he was on duty on 3 March 2001. He states that on that date, a barman approached him saying that three women who had been part of the group of Travellers who had engaged in threatening behaviour on New Years Eve had returned. The barman told him that it was only after he had served them a drink that he recalled who they were.
Mr O'Loughlin explained at the Hearing that, despite not having asked anyone to leave on New Years Eve, a decision had been taken the next day by the hotel that none of the people in the group were to be served again in the hotel if they ever returned.
Mr O'Loughlin stated that the hotel's decision with regard to the New Years Eve group was in line with the policy it had adopted for any group that became troublesome. The group's Traveller identity was not a factor in the decision.
On 3 March 2001, when the barman identified Mrs Corcoran and her family to him as people who had been in the group on New Years Eve, he instructed the barman not to serve them any more drink. Mr O'Loughlin recalls seeing Mrs Corcoran in the hotel after March 2001 but says that he gave her the "benefit of the doubt" and decided to just monitor her behaviour after that. She is now welcome in the hotel at any time.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
From the evidence before me, I consider that the refusal to serve Mrs Corcoran and her family on 3 March 2001 arose from the fact that she was in the "wrong place at the wrong time" on New Years Eve. Unfortunately, because of the fact that Mrs Corcoran, her mother and sister were sitting at the same long table as members of the troublesome group, it appears that she was identified as being part of that group which led to her being refused service subsequently on 3 March 2001.
Accordingly, I do not consider that discrimination was a factor in Mrs Corcoran being refused service on 3 March 2001.
I find that a prima facie case of discrimination has not been established by the complainant on the Traveller community ground in terms of sections 3(1)(i) of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004.
15 August 2007