Traveller Law Database

Anne Joyce v Michael Ryan Funeral Directors DEC-S2014-012 

Date of Decision: Thu, 04 Sep 2014
Decision Making Body: Workplace Relations Commission
Law Applied: Equal Status Acts (2000-2018)
Keywords: Discrimination, Refusal of Service, Funeral,
Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)

Anne Joyce brought a complaint against Michael Ryan Funeral Directors on the basis that they refused to facilitate the wake of her deceased son due to her status as an Irish Traveller. The Funeral Directors argued that Ms Joyce was refused service as it was against their policy to rent out the funeral home in the manner she requested. The Equality Officer found Ms Joyce’s evidence to be more credible and awarded her €6,384 in compensation for the distress caused.  


Ms Anne Joyce brought a claim against Michael Ryan Funeral Directors on the basis that they refused to provide a service for the arrangement of her deceased son’s funeral. Her sister had attended another funeral parlour to arrange the funeral and met with a representative of this funeral parlour. She was told that the funeral parlour did not have a premises in Ashbourne, where the family wished the wake to be held, but that Michael Ryan Funeral Directors did have a premises there.  

The representative of the first funeral parlour contacted Michael Ryan Funeral Directors regarding the wake.  Ms Joyce claimed that in the phone call to Michael Ryan Funeral Directors, the representative from the first funeral parlour asked Mr Ryan if he would “look after a local family” and was told that the room would be made available for the wake. 

However, the representative of the first funeral home gave evidence that after Ms Joyce’s sister had left, Mr Ryan rang back and cancelled, stating that the local parish priest had an issue with the funeral. Ms Joyce’s sister was unaware of this cancellation and attended Michael Ryan Funeral Directors the following day. She claimed that her sister met with Mr C at the premises, who soon ushered her out after receiving a phone call and becoming aware that the family were Irish Travellers.  

Ms Joyce submitted that other arrangements were made for the wake outside of Ashbourne and that many friends and family were unable to attend due to the location. She gave evidence as to her extreme distress on the day due to the issues with organising the wake, and that she was reluctant to even enter the church after hearing the alleged difficulties with the parish priest. She also stated that she was informed afterwards that no priest had any such concerns regarding the funeral, and she claimed that both priests involved were in fact supportive of the family. 

Michael Ryan Funeral Directors claimed that they did not refuse service to Ms Joyce based on her status as an Irish Traveller. They stated that no request for service was made to them by an Irish Traveller, and that the request was made in a commercial context by another business owner, who was not an Irish Traveller. Furthermore, Mr Ryan stated that during the phone call, no mention was made of the deceased’s status as an Irish Traveller.   

It was also submitted that the original complaint was made in the name of Ms Joyce’s sister and that Ms Joyce did not request any service from Michael Ryan Funeral Directors. The Funeral Directors argued that they have a right to be informed of the true nature of any complaint brought against them, including the identity of the complainant and the facts submitted by the complainant. Therefore, they claimed that as Ms Joyce was not the one to request the service, the complaint was misconceived.   

Michael Ryan Funeral Directors also disputed the evidence given by the representative of the original funeral directors. Mr Ryan claimed that the representative of the other business demanded the use of Mr Ryan’s funeral home, and he ended the call as he was busy at the time. He further submitted that when he rang back later, he explained that it is not the policy of his funeral home to rent out the premises in the manner requested by the other funeral directors. Mr Ryan gave evidence that the representative of the other funeral directors became aggressive after being refused.  



The Equality Officer considered the Equal Status Acts, which state that where facts are established by the complainant, Ms Joyce in this case, to the extent that discrimination may be presumed to have occurred, then it is for the respondent, Michael Ryan Funeral Directors, to prove the contrary.  

Firstly, the Equality Officer examined whether the complaint had been taken by the wrong person, as claimed by Mr Ryan. The complaint concerned the provision of services for the funeral of a child, which would be for the benefit of the relatives of the deceased, especially the parents. Therefore, the Equality Officer concluded that Ms Joyce was entitled to bring the complaint.  

The next issue to be considered was whether Mr Ryan had originally agreed to provide the service, as claimed by Ms Joyce and the representative of the first funeral directors. The Equality Officer accepted the evidence given by the representative of the first funeral directors that Mr Ryan did originally agree to facilitate the wake. Ms Joyce’s sister had also given evidence that the call ended with Mr Ryan agreeing to make the room available for the wake. The Equality Officer found it unlikely that the representative would lie to the sister, given the distress this would cause for the family and the additional work that the representative would have to do to make alternative arrangements for the wake.  

Furthermore, the Equality Officer did not find Mr Ryan’s evidence of the phone calls to be credible, as he was not consistent in his claims of what had occurred. He first stated that he told the other funeral directors that he would call them back and then rang back to inform them that he does not rent out his funeral home. He later contradicted this evidence, stating that he had contacted the parish priest in between the two calls. The Equality Officer declared this evidence to be consistent with Ms Joyce’s claim and contradictory to Mr Ryan’s version of events.   

Mr Ryan, when asked if he was aware that Ms Joyce was an Irish Traveller, stated that this was a well-known fact about the Joyce family. Thus, the Equality Officer found that Mr Ryan would have known that the funeral was for an Irish Traveller after contacting the parish priest.   



The Equality Officer concluded that Mr Ryan had originally agreed to provide a service for the Joyce family, and his argument that he would not do so based on his commercial policy was not credible. Thus, it was found that Ms Joyce had established a case of discrimination against Michael Ryan Funeral Directors and the business had failed to prove the contrary.   

Ms Joyce was awarded the maximum sum allowable of €6,384 for the extreme distress caused by the funeral directors. 

Partner Organisations