A Traveller rights activist and two of her friends have failed in their claim of discrimination after one of them was refused entry to a Dublin pub.
Donegal-based activist Eileen Flynn and her friends Helen and her sister Melissa Grogan from Labre Park, in Ballyfermot in Dublin, brought the action against the Pennyhill Public House in Lucan.
Dublin District Court heard the three women had gone to the pub on the night of April 14, 2018, and they believed bouncers knew they were Travellers because of their accent.
However, Judge Michael Coghlan held that he did not think that would have identified them as being members of a particular group.
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.
Ms Flynn told Judge Coghlan she was an activist with the National Travellers Women’s Forum. She said she was a Traveller and lived on a halting site.
She had been back in Dublin on the night before her wedding and decided to go to the pub with her friends, Melissa and Helen Grogan. The Pennyhill was chosen because Helen Grogan had been there previously with settled people.
She said when Helen went in ahead of her and Melissa Grogan, a doorman at the pub put his hand on Helen Grogan’s shoulder and said “not tonight”.
Ms Flynn said they had not been drinking beforehand and were passive when they entered and were confident. Other people were not stopped, she said.
She said she had not got an explanation for the refusal despite asking three times.
She felt disrespected, hurt and low self-esteem as a result, she said. She was annoyed, she told Constance Cassidy SC, for the Pennyhill Public House.
Ms Cassidy put it to her that she told one of the doormen “You’ve fucked up now” and that she had sued another pub before and “they have to let me in now” and that “you’ve fucking messed with the wrong girl”.
In reply, she told counsel they had messed with the wrong girl, she was five months pregnant and wanted a better world for Travellers.
She told the court she used her phone to live-stream it to thousands of her Facebook followers. She called the gardaí and after half an hour she and her friends went to a club in the city centre instead.
The footage streamed online was deleted the next day because she was getting married and did not want it online in the event she was researched by the wedding venue, she said.
CCTV was shown but Helen Grogan, a social studies student, admitted it did not show her being grabbed. However, she said there was not much room and it may not have been visible.
She said some months earlier she had gone to the pub with a man from the settled community and the man had been refused entry, but not her. She said she was a Traveller and did not have a Dublin accent.
She said one of the doormen tipped her shoulder and said “not tonight” when she arrived.
Beauty therapy student Melissa Grogan also said the staff would have known they were Travellers by their accents. After Helen Grogan was stopped they did not impede the doorway and moved away, she said.
The doormen denied they stopped Helen Grogan because she was a Traveller or knowing they were members of that community because of their accents.
Frank Byrne who was head of security at the pub said Eileen Flynn was irate and pushing the “Travellers rights angle”. He said these situations were normally sorted out after arranging a meeting to discuss the matter, but he accused Ms Flynn of escalating the incident by live-streaming it on Facebook.
He said his colleague had stopped Helen Grogan and he got the impression she knew why.
However, no-one touched her, he said.
Doorman Sean Wall said Helen Grogan was refused entry because he was aware she had been refused on a previous occasion by another colleague and he recognised her.
He said he did not know she was a member of the Travelling community
The court heard that during their training they learned about discrimination law but in refresher material used by Mr Byrne, the wrong legislation was used.
Judge Michael Coghlan said he had heard evidence of what happened after the refusal when Ms Flynn went into “defensive mode”.
He appreciated that Ms Flynn, through her work, encountered discrimination and he expected she was more sensitive to it.
He said Helen and Melissa Grogan had handled themselves with restraint and should be praised for that.
Assumptions were made on both sides and it had to be looked at in the cold light of day, he said, but that was not the issue, which was whether or not there was an act of discrimination based on ethnicity, of members of the Travelling community.
Dismissing the case, he said he would find it difficult to identify them in terms of a particular group due to their accent.