Statement by the Equality Authority on allegations of abuse of Equal Status Legislation

The Equality Authority views with concern the statement by the President of the Vintners Federation of Ireland as reported in today’s newspaper that some members of the Traveller community are abusing the Equal Status Act. The allegations made included attempts to demand money from publicans if they refused to serve Travellers. The Equality Authority wishes to point out that publicans who conduct their business in a fair and non-discriminatory manner have nothing to fear from the Act.

Mr Dunne is quoted as saying ‘The individual or individuals refused service follow this up with a threat to lodge a complaint to the Director of Equality Investigations’ In some cases money is demanded to stop their formal complaint – in essence it is paramount to blackmail’. The Authority rejects this interpretation. Mr Dunne fails to address the reason why a traveller or any other person is refused service. Any person refused service in a public house on the basis of their membership of any of the nine categories protected by the Act is entitled to seek redress by lodging a complaint. They are also entitled to seek the advice and assistance of the Equality Authority.

The Authority does not press spurious claims and only proceeds with cases that cannot be resolved by contacts between both parties. To date over 60% of our total caseload involves Travellers being denied access to goods services facilities or accommodation. ‘We are inundated with complaints from the Traveller Community and people associated with Travellers who are being refused services normally available to all other citizens. It is time that all publicans respected this legislation and embraced its benefits. A Traveller cannot complain unless discrimination occurs. A publican has nothing to fear unless he or she has discriminated’ said Brian Merriman, Head of Communications, Equality Authority.

‘It is also worth noting that for the first time in law the Equal Status Act provides protection to publicans to refuse service to anyone on grounds of criminal or disorderly conduct or damage to property’, he concluded.

ENDS

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