(represented by Denis M. Molloy, Solicitors)
Music Box Nite Club (Bendene Ltd)
This complaint was lodged on the Traveller community ground. The complainant claims that she and a female friend were refused entry to the Music Box Nite Club, Ballina on22 December 2002because of their membership of the Traveller community.
This case was originally set for Hearing in Ballina on13 September 2007. That Hearing was postponed, however, at the request of the respondents then solicitors, Michael G. Bohan & Co., who stated that they were unable to attend on that date. In their correspondence, the solicitors also indicated, for future reference, that they would be unavailable to attend a Hearing on the second and fourth Tuesday of any month and on the second Wednesday of any month due to Court commitments.
On 22 October 2007, I notified both parties that the Hearing had been rescheduled for28 November 2007( to facilitate the respondents’ solicitors, the last Wednesday of the month was chosen). Michael G. Bohan & Co. replied on 12 November saying that that date was totally unsuitable as their client was in Portugaluntil the second week in December and requesting that the Hearing be further adjourned until the New Year.
In responce, I wrote to Michael G. Bohan & Co asking for written evidence by 21 November to support their contention that their client would be unavailable on 28 November 2008. When no reply was received by 26 November, I decided to postpone the Hearing again because of the uncertainty involved over who would be in attendance on 28 November 2007. Both parties were informed by letter dated 26 November 2007 that the Hearing would proceed in the Ramada Hotel, Ballina at 10am on 23 January 2008 and that no further postponements would be permitted
In a letter dated 28 November 2007, Michael G. Bohan & Co acknowledged the new Hearing date but stated that they had not received any instructions to defend the matter and would not be attending the Hearing on 23 January 2007. By return, the solicitors were asked to confirm that they had passed on the Hearing Date notification to their client, and to provide their client's full name, address and contact details for future reference. In a letter dated 11 December 2007, Michael G. Bohan & Co. Solicitors confirmed that they had notified their client of the new Hearing date on 23 January 2008 and that their client was Bendene Limited with an address at The Broken Jug, O’Rahilly Street, Ballina, Co Mayo.
Hearing on23 January 2008in Ballina
At 10.00 am on 23 January 2008, the complainant arrived for the Hearing with her solicitor. As there was no sign of the respondents, I indicated that I would defer commencement of the Hearing for 30 minutes in case they had been delayed.
When the complainants had not appeared by 10.30am, I convened the Hearing as I was satisfied from Michael G. Bohan & Co.’s correspondence that the respondents had been made aware of the Hearing date.
At the Hearing, I explained that, in cases under the Equal Status Acts, the onus was on the complainant to provide evidence at the Hearing establishing a prima facie case of discrimination and that only when the Equality Officer was satisfied that a prima facie case had been established would the respondents be called upon at the Hearing to rebut the allegation by being afforded the opportunity to challenge any allegations made against them.
In the absence of the respondents, I explained that I would still need to take the complainant’s evidence at Hearing to enable me to decide whether a prima facie case had been established.
I then proceeded to take the complainant’s evidence and the Hearing closed at 11.05am.
Evidence Provided by Complainant
Ms Collins had visited the Music Box Nite Club once before and had been admitted on production of her Garda Age card. She had never caused trouble in the club.
She was seven months pregnant in December 2002 when she and a friend, Anne Marie Collins, decided they would go for a night-out together for Christmas.
As the complainant did not drink, they arranged to meet in her house late on 22 December 2002with a view to walking to the Music Box Nite Club which opened atmidnight.
When they arrived at the Music Box a few minutes aftermidnight, there were three bouncers at the door one of whom she knew to see locally.
One of them asked her for identification and said that they would only accept the “Black I.D.” which was the Garda Age Card. When she produced her Garda Age Card, however, the bouncer told her and her friend to step back and stand to one side.
At the Hearing, she produced her Garda Age Card showing that she was 19 years of age in December 2002. Ms Collins also produced a statement from the Garda Siochana confirming that that particular Age Card had been issued to her on 29 October 2002.
While they were waiting, other people were being admitted without I.D. When she queried this, she was told that they were “regulars”. She saw other people being asked for I.D. and some being admitted on producing provisional driving licenses, passports and Garda I.D.s. Even one woman was admitted on production of a Visa card, she said.
When she again asked why she and her friend were not getting in, she said that the bouncers began to make fun of her appearance by referring to her teeth, hair and skin and making remarks such as “If only we were a bit younger”.
Eventually, having been told again that there was no way they were getting in, she told them that she was going to phone the Gardai at which point they laughed at her.
She then rang the Gardai from a phonebox and they told her that she should see a solicitor.
Herself and her friend left the Night Club at 12.20am approx and went home. She never went back to the Music Box again after that night.
When asked at the Hearing why her friend who was also a Traveller had not lodged a complaint in her own right, she said that this was because Anne Marie Collins decided to leave Ireland in early 2003 to live in England.
As stated earlier, under the Equal Status Acts the onus is on the complainant to provide evidence at Hearing establishing a prima facie case of discrimination and then the respondents are afforded an opportunity to rebut the allegation.
At the Hearing, Ms Collins provided me with a very credible account of events and I am satisfied that she has successfully established a prima facie case of discrimination. I also find that, by not attending the Hearing to give their own account of events, that the respondents have failed to rebut the allegation of discrimination.
Accordingly, I find that the complainant has established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller community ground and I order that the respondent pay her the sum of €1000 for the hurt and humiliation suffered.
10 March 2008