Traveller Law Database

Annie McDonagh v. Fiddler's Creek Bar, Sligo DEC-S2002-119

Date of Decision: Tue, 12 Nov 2002
Decision Making Body: Equality Tribunal
Law Applied: Equal Status Acts (2000-2018)
Keywords: Equal Status Act 2000, Direct Discrimination, Refused Service, Disposal of Goods and Supply of Services, Equality Tribunal
Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)

The complainant was refused service in the respondents’ premises, on the basis of her membership of the Traveller Community. The Workplace Relations Commission found this to amount to discrimination contrary to Section 3(1) and 3(2)(i) of the Equal Status Act 2000.


Summary of Complainants Case:

The complainant, Ms McDonagh, stated that she and her companions went to Fiddler’s Creek Bar on July 20th, 2001, to get a hot lunch. They sat at high tables and after 20 minutes without being served passed, they moved to more comfortable seating. She noted that despite staff passing them regularly, serving all the other patrons, after a further 20 minutes of being ignored, she was forced to go up to the bar and request a server be sent to take their order as they had been waiting so long. The man at the bar replied that he would have to check with the boss if he could serve them, Ms McDonagh thanked him and returned to her seat.

Consequently, a member of staff approached the group and stated that he was “not allowed to serve them as the boss would not allow it”. The complainant also noted that three members of staff in Fiddlers Creek had gathered together at one point and were staring at the complainant and her companions and chatting among themselves, but she could not hear what they were saying. Ms McDonagh’s sister, Ms Bridget Sweeney was so embarrassed that she ran out the door of the pub. The rest of the group followed.

The group decided to go to the Garda Station and formally report what had occurred, where the Garda on duty contacted Fiddlers Creek and a member of staff recalled the same story as the complainants, and that they were unaware of the reasoning for refusal of the group. Ms McDonagh noted that there was no signage stating that either table was reserved and that they were not approached and told the tables were reserved either. This was verified by her sister, Ms McSweeney, who testified the same sentiments in court, nothing of the humiliation and distress caused by the occurrence. 

Summary of Respondents Case:

Mr Scanlon, the owner of the premises, stated that he was not present on the day in question, but it is standard practice to reserve seating in the restaurant, particularly at lunch hour, for groups of workers from nearby offices/businesses. He noted that it is standard practice to place “reserved” signs on the tables to indicate that the seating is not available. Such signage would have been placed on the tables on the day of the alleged discrimination. He further noted that his premises has never operated a policy of refusing or limiting service to members of the Traveller Community. Mr Scanlon could not state the precise number of places reserved daily, noting it varies depending on demand from local office workers. He argued that potentially the delay in his staff approaching the group was because the restaurant was very busy on the day. Mr Colreavy, the manager, testified as a witness of Mr Scanlon’s and verified his case. However, he was also unable to say what precisely occurred that day, as he was also not present on the premises at that time. The respondent also argued that a misunderstanding had occurred, in that the bar person with whom the complainant spoke, stated that it was not possible to serve her lunch where she was sitting as the area in question had been reserved. The complainant disputes this. 


Whether or not the complainant was discriminated against contrary to Section 3 (1)(a) and 3 (2)(i) of the Equal Status Act 2000 in terms of Section 5 (1) of that Act. 

Findings of Equality Officer

The Equality Officer, Ms Kavanagh, noted that to establish a prima facie case, three key factors must be satisfied.

  1. Membership of a discriminatory ground.
  2. Evidence of specific treatment of the complainant by the respondent.
  3. Evidence that the treatment received by the complainant was less favourable than the treatment someone, not covered by that ground, would have received in similar circumstances.

Noting that if these factors are satisfied, the burden of proof shifts from the complainant to the respondent, who must sufficiently rebut.

She regarded factors (1) and (2) as satisfied, given the fact that Ms McDonagh is a member of the Traveller Community and that the respondent did not deny the refusal to supply services, only the reasoning for the dispute. In regard to factor (3), the complainant states that the only reason that she was refused service is because she is a Traveller. She states that neither she nor her companions witnessed any other person on the premises being refused service on the day in question, some of whom entered the premises long after the complainant and her party.

Ms Kavanagh was satisfied that the difference in treatment afforded to the complainant and her companions, through the lack of and being shunned by the respondent’s staff, was less favourable treatment than that afforded other patrons, both local and non-local on the day in question. The reason for the less favourable difference in the treatment was that the complainant and her companions were recognised as being Travellers by the respondent’s staff. She also noted she was satisfied that the complainants were unaware they were in a reserved section, and this was due to the lack of signage or staff communicating as such. Satisfying factor (3) above, thus establishing a prima facie case.

Thus, the Equality Officer found on the balance of probabilities, that the complainant was refused service based on her being a member of the Traveller Community. This amounted to direct discrimination.


The Equality Officer found that the respondent had failed to rebut the inference of Discrimination.

Therefore, it was found that the complainant was discriminated against on the ground of membership of the Traveller community, contrary to Section 3(1) and 3(2)(i) of the Equal Status Act and in terms of Section 5(1) of that Act.

In accordance with Section 27(1)(a) of the act, the complainants were entitled to redress. Thus, the Equality Tribunal ordered that €500 be paid to the complainant by the respondent due to (i) the embarrassment and distress caused to the complainant by the refusal of service, and (iii) the loss of amenity to the complainant on the day on which service was refused.

Following Section 27(1)(b) it was ordered that the respondent to immediately undertake or provide training for all members of staff in relation to the scope, application and requirements of the Equal Status Act 2000.


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