A Traveller woman has been awarded €5,000 after being discriminated against by two Co Galway accommodation providers in the space of a few hours last year.
On February 20, 2018, Geraldine Ward travelled from Dublin to attend her uncle’s funeral in Loughrea.
On the date, Ms Ward’s sister had bookings confirmed for the Auld Triangle B&B and the Meadow Court Hotel in Loughrea through booking.com.
However, each time Ms Ward and her sister failed to secure a room and Ms Ward was forced to 'freshen up' for her uncle's funeral removal in her car.
Ms Ward subsequently took discrimination cases under the Equal Status Act to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the WRC has upheld her discrimination claims ordering each provider to pay her €2,500.
WRC Adjudication Officer Ray Flaherty said Ms Ward was discriminated against on the grounds of being a Traveller by the two providers.
Ms Ward’s sister secured a room for the two at the Meadow Court at 5.51pm on February 20, 2018, through booking.com after the sisters earlier failed to secure a reserved room through booking.com at the locked Auld Triangle B&B in Loughrea.
However, when Ms Ward turned up at the hotel reception that evening after coming from the mortuary of her uncle’s removal, a receptionist told them that there had been a mistake and that the hotel was full.
Ms Ward told the WRC hearing that she did not believe that the hotel was fully booked when there were only six people in the restaurant, very few cars in the car park, and it being off-peak season in a relatively quiet part of the country.
The cases were taken on behalf of Ms Ward by the Connacht Citizens Information Service and Ms Ward told the hearing that the discrimination caused considerable stress and unease for her during a difficult time for her and her family.
In response, a representative for the hotel told the WRC that it uses three to four websites for bookings including booking.com and that on the day in question, booking.com had oversold their allocation of rooms.
The hotel also submitted that the receptionist did not have the booking on the hotel system.
The hotel stated that when a booking is made through booking.com, the hotel gets a confirmation some hours later.
It stated that as the premises does not have high-speed broadband, this can often lead to further delays in receipt of confirmations.
The hotel claimed that they did not discriminate against Ms Ward pointing out Ms Ward and her sister were served food at the hotel.
In his findings, Mr Flaherty found that on the balance of probabilities, Ms Ward’s previously booked and confirmed accommodation with the hotel was cancelled on the basis that she was a member of the Traveller community.
Mr Flaherty stated that he found the hotel’s contention that booking.com sold a room to Ms Ward, at a point in time when all rooms were already sold, to lack credibility.
Mr Flaherty also stated that the hotel’s claim that it was full on the night “somewhat unconvincing”.
Mr Flaherty stated that if the 21 rooms were booked “one might expect a greater degree of activity both in the hotel and in the car park”.
Ms Ward only made the booking for the Meadow Court Hotel after failing to secure a room at the Auld Triangle B&B earlier that day.
Ms Ward’s sister had made the booking through booking.com but when they arrived at the B&B it was locked.
Ms Ward’s sister rang the owner and said that he would be with them in a few minutes to let them in but an hour passed and there was no sign.
Further phone calls to the owner were ignored. Ms Ward stated that she was left outside the B&B with her bags for approximately one-and-a-half hours.
Ms Ward stated this was humiliating as people passing by could see that they were waiting.
Ms Ward stated that she found it distressing because she knew she had to go to the mortuary and had to freshen up in the car.
In a written submission to the WRC, the B&B owner stated that all publicans in the town were contacted by An Garda Síochána and ordered to close their premises on February 20, 2018.
In response to this, Ms Ward submitted, in evidence at the hearing, a letter from the Superintendent’s Office from the Loughrea Garda Division confirming that no instruction was issued to pubs in the town to close the premises on February 20/21, 2018.
In his findings, Mr Flaherty found that Ms Ward was denied access to the B&B on the basis that she was a member of the Traveller community and has ordered the Auld Triangle B&B to pay her €2,500.