Traveller sisters lose discrimination case against pub

A case by two sisters who alleged they were discriminated against in a well-known pub and restaurant in Ardfert, Co Kerry, because they were Travellers, was dismissed yesterday after a hearing at Killarney District Court.

Helen O’Brien, aged 20, and her older sister Margaret O’Brien, of An Fearann, Ardfert, sought a written apology and compensation from Rathoneen Ltd, owner of Kate Browne’s Pub.

They alleged this was not the first occasion they had been refused and said they wanted to put a stop to it.

They brought the discrimination suit after being told they would not be served food at around 7.30pm on a date they said was May 30, 2016 — a Monday.

Helen O’Brien told the civil hearing at Killarney District Court that they went to the pub and looked at the menu but when they were ready to order the head barman said, “No. We are not serving ye”.

He told her it was because his boss “said not to serve ye”.

She asked to see the boss, and was told to return on Thursday. She returned and was told it was because she had come in four years ago “looking for cigarettes”. She had never gone there looking for cigarettes as she only took up smoking six months ago, she claimed. “We left. We felt we had no other choice but to leave.”

Helen O’Brien claimed that when she met with the manager, she was told “there are other restaurants”.

Asked by her barrister Richard Liston what she thought, Ms O’Brien said: “I felt that because I was from the Traveller community I was being treated differently. I didn’t feel I should be. There were a lot of locals in the bar at the time. It was an embarrassment. I was never in trouble with the guards. I come from a quiet family. We felt very emotional, very hurt about this. I don’t drink.”

Ms O’Brien said that “it’s the way they look at you. They make you feel like a criminal, so low… We’re humans too, like.”

Niall Lucey, for the company, put it to her that she looked younger than 20 and that tobacco legislation demanded she have identity. She had not provided it.

They had also got the date wrong and misidentified the bar man and manager, the court heard.

Ed Delaney the head barman, said the date in question was actually May 31 . “I said, ‘Sorry, I can’t serve ye, ye’re barred,’” he said.

Andrew Pardoe, long-time manager, said the sisters would not produce identification when asking to buy cigarettes; their abusive response had affected other customers, the court heard. He denied telling Helen O’Brien there were other restaurants in Ardfert.

Judge James O’Connor said the date was May 31 and that it was annoying for management that the women never produced identification.

“I can’t find discrimination,” said the judge.

“There’s a history here. This has been happening a long, long time. I have no choice but to dismiss both applications.”

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