Hotel discriminated against Traveller couple, court rules

A Traveller couple have won a case for discrimination against a hotel that refused to serve them on the day of their daughter’s wedding.

Hotel discriminated against Traveller couple, court rules

Thomas and Mary Mahon, of Rivervalley Grove, Swords, Co Dublin, were awarded €1,500 compensation each at Swords District Court following their case against The White House Hotel, Ashbourne Road, The Ward, Co Dublin.

The couple said they were refused service on Feb 15, by the bar manager Eddie Kinsella and owner Simon Ruthledge, after they made a booking to have an meal with Mrs Mahon’s mother and 25 friends on the day of their daughter’s wedding.

Mrs Mahon told the court her husband had booked a meal and paid a deposit of €190. However, she said the main wedding reception was taking place at a different hotel in Clonee, Co Meath.

She said the couple were regulars at the hotel for nearly 14 years and never had any problems.

“My mother is elderly and had a stroke so we wanted to have an early meal for her and some friends after the wedding ceremony before we dropped my mother home,” she told the court.

She said on her way to the bathroom, she heard a staff member telling her husband they could not serve the group.

“We were told there was a wedding the day before at the hotel and a row broke out and a car was set alight in the car park but we explained to them that had nothing to do with us and we weren’t at that wedding.

“We were left humiliated, ashamed and embarrassed and we haven’t been back to the hotel since. We didn’t make a scene and I didn’t take back the deposit because I was so upset. I had to go home and make sandwiches and tea for my mother,” she added.

Under cross-examination, Mrs Mahon agreed that one of the people in her group was barred from the hotel for a previous incident.

The defence barrister put it to Mrs Mahon the group were offered their meal if the man who was barred left but that the staff wouldn’t be serving them alcohol, which Mrs Mahon disagreed.

Mr Mahon told the court he did suggest to Mr Ruthledge that he would ask the man who was barred to leave but claimed Mr Ruthledge said, “No, we are not having any of it”.

“I was discriminated because I am a member of the Travelling community. I knew nothing of the wedding the day before and they had my number so they could have rung me to say they weren’t taking a group booking that day.”

Bar manager Eddie Kinsella said: “It’s premises policy that if someone who is barred is in the company of others, none of them would get served. I told them of an incident here the day before just on the spur of the moment but the reason they weren’t being served was because their friend was barred. If this barred man left, I told them I would serve them food without alcohol.”

He said they have held four Traveller weddings since the incident.

Judge Dermot Dempsey said he was satisfied Mr and Mrs Mahon had successfully proved a prima facie case of discrimination by the hotel. “This is a clear case of a reaction to what happened at the wedding the previous day.”

As well as the compensation to the Mahons for the “severe embarrassment and distressed caused,” he awarded legal costs and the return of the €190 deposit.

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