Three members of the Traveller community who were served lunch but refused alcohol have failed in their claim of discrimination.
Judge David Waters at the District Civil Court in Killarney said a license holder was entitled to refuse people drink for “a variety of reasons”, and refusing to serve someone did not necessarily mean discrimination.
The court heard that other members of the Traveller community who were at The Killarney Court Hotel for a Christening party were being served at the same time as the applicants.
The hotel, on the Rock Road/Ring Road in Killarney, also hosted the meetings of Tom Rights, a Traveller group formed to highlight alleged discrimination in Killarney pubs and hotels, it also emerged.
The application was brought under Section 19 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 and the Equal Status Act 2000. Penalties include temporary closure and compensation.
Solicitor for the hotel, Conor Murphy, said his client, Killarney Court Hotel and licensee Riobard Lyne were so against discrimination that his premises has been used by Travellers to discuss discrimination.
“My client will say you were barred from the premises previously,” Mr Murphy put it to complainant Vera O’Donovan. Ms O’Donovan of 36 Deerpark Crescent, Killarney, denied she had ever been barred previously for insisting on being served after the bar had closed.
She described how on March 23, accompanied by her elderly parents and her husband, she had lunch at the hotel as part of a birthday celebration. They had been served food. But when she tried to buy drinks at the bar, she was refused and the security person called.
Ms O’Donovan said the barmaid told her she had instructions to serve her food only, and not drink.
“She said I can give ye food, not drink. I got offended by it when she said “ye". I took it to mean “ye” meant Travellers,” Ms O’Donvoan told Judge Waters.
She did not seek an explanation and did not meet the security man because her elderly parents were with her and she did not want to delay.
She agreed with Mr Murphy that a Christening party was taking place at the same time and other members of the Traveller Community were being served alcohol.
A second person, John O’Brien of 211 Ballyspillane, Killarney, said on the day in question he went to order two Baileys for himself and his wife but was refused. "They can’t take your money for food and hunt you out for drink,” Mr O’Brien said.
He rejected the hotel’s claim he had previously been barred, saying he had never been barred and never been in trouble because of fighting.
He said he saw other Travellers at a Christening party being served, but “assumed” he was refused because he was a Traveller.
Asked by the judge if he understood what discrimination was, Mr O’Brien replied: “I do very well. All my life.”
The hotel had “a reputation for serving “certain members” of the Traveller Community, but it did not serve all Travellers, Mr O’Brien insisted.
Judge Waters said for the case to succeed under the Equal Status Act, the “sole reason" to refuse drink had to be because of membership of the Traveller community.
He also said a licensee was entitled to serve food and not serve drink.
“A publican has a duty of care and can refuse for a variety of reasons with impunity, but what they can’t do is discriminate,” Judge Waters said.
“What appears to have happened is for some reason alcohol was not served to them and I’m being asked to make a leap and say that’s because they were members of the Traveller Community,” the judge remarked.
However other members of the Traveller community were being served.
“Clearly there is not discrimination on the basis of membership of Traveller Community. They may be refused for some other reason, I don’t know,” Judge Waters said.
That the applicants had been refused purely on the basis of being Travellers had been “flatly contradicted”, the judge also said.