Three separate groups of men – who believed they were refused admission and/or service at city bars because they were Travellers – have had their civil actions for redress dismissed by a District Court judge.
The first and second group sought redress from John Francis, nominee of the Menlo Park Hotel Ltd while a third group sought redress from Clybaun Taverns Ltd, trading as Tom Sheridan’s, and John Mannion, nominee of the premises, on the grounds they had been discriminated against and were left feeling embarrassed and humiliated by the refusals which were deemed unlawful, discriminatory and contrary to the Equal Status Act 2000 as amended by the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003.
A fourth, separate civil action for redress which was brought by Daniel Delaney, 21 Fana Glas, against Paul Gill, nominee of the Claregalway Hotel, was withdrawn by solicitor Michael Cunningham from O’Carroll & Co solicitors, which represented all of the applicants.
The first of the hearings before Galway District Civil Court heard evidence from three Delaney brothers who reside at Carrowbrowne halting site.
It also heard evidence in relation to the second complaint from brothers Brian and Keith McDonagh, from Ballinfoile.
James, Connie and Michael Delaney, each sought redress against John Francis, nominee of the Menlo Park Hotel Ltd.
for refusing them entry to the hotel bar on April 6, 2019 on the grounds they were members of the Travelling community and that they were refused entry by staff while others members of the public were present and permitted entry to the premises.
Brian and Keith McDonagh, who were on their third pint in the bar when the Delaneys came in, sought redress for being refused further service on the grounds that they were members of the travelling community too and because they had remonstrated with staff over the way the Delaneys had been refused entry to the bar.
Following over two hours of contested evidence, Judge John King took just ten seconds to find no evidence of discrimination in the case presented to the court.
He dismissed all of the men’s claims for damages and awarded costs against them to the Menlo Park hotel.
The Delaneys each gave evidence they and a family friend went to the hotel for a drink on Saturday evening, April 6 last year.
They were half-way between the door and the bar area when a security man stopped them.
He asked them if they were residents or had made bookings and when they answered in the negative, he told them it was “residents only” and they would have to leave.
The brothers said they were targeted that evening because they were Travellers.
The security man who stopped them and also Mr Francis gave evidence denying there was a hotel policy of discrimination against Travellers.
They said the hotel was fully booked that night and staff were getting ready to host two large annual fundraising functions, both of which had booked spaces in the bar area for pre-dinner drinks receptions.
Management made the decision early in the evening, they said, to implement a ‘residents only’ policy and allow only those with bookings into the bar area, due to the numbers on the premises.
They denied the Delaneys were refused entry because they were Travellers. They also explained the McDonaghs were refused more drink and had to be asked to leave the bar when they became loud and argumentative with staff, causing unease to other patrons in the bar.
Mr Francis said the hotel had regularly catered for Traveller groups down through the years without any difficulties.
Judge King said he found no evidence of discrimination against the Delaney’s or McDonagh’s. He dismissed their claims and awarded the hotel its legal costs.
The hotel’s solicitor, Willie Kennedy, said he would not look for his costs if the applicants did not appeal the court’s decision.
The following day, Mr Cunningham withdrew a third, separate application for redress, brought by Daniel Delaney, from Fana Glas, against Paul Gill, nominee of the Claregalway Hotel. By consent, Judge King struck out the action and made no order as to costs.
The fourth redress action was brought by brothers, Bernard and Tom McDonagh, from 3 Garrai Domhnall, Cappagh Road, and was heard the following day.
Bernard McDonagh gave evidence he was doing social studies in college at present.
He said he and his brother went to watch a soccer match in Sheridan’s pub at 5.50pm last St Stephen’s Day but were refused entry by a doorman.
He said the doorman looked them up and down and told them it was ‘locals only’ and that there was an event on that night and they could only get in if they had tickets.
Mr McDonagh said they asked the doorman to see the tickets and he went in and came back out with raffle tickets from a stub.
He said other people were walking in past them and the doorman made no attempt to stop them or ask them for tickets.
Mr McDonagh said he and his brother only wanted to see the match which was on Sky Sports.
“We asked other people in the carpark and they said they didn’t know anything about tickets,” he said.
“We didn’t gain entry because of discrimination and because Travellers get discriminated against. That is definitely what happened to us. He looked us up and down at the door and we saw other people enter the pub,” he said.
Solicitor for the respondents, Benen Fahy, said his client had written a letter to the McDonaghs on receiving a letter from their solicitor, explaining why they were refused entry to the premises that night and telling them they would be welcome in the pub any time they liked.
Mr McDonagh said he would not be returning to the pub at any time because he was not welcome there last St Stephen’s night.
Mr Fahy said the doorman had said to the McDonaghs that it was ‘regulars only’ and not ‘locals only’ as Mr McDonagh had suggested in evidence.
He said the pub was in Knocknacarra which had a large catchment area. The pub was very, very busy that particular night and management made a decision to restrict entry to ‘regulars only’, Mr Fahy explained.
He said the doorman had mentioned drink vouchers and not raffle tickets to the McDonaghs. The drink vouchers had been given out in the preceding weeks to regulars and only people with the vouchers were being allowed in that night, Mr Fahy said.
He said the doorman and the manager did not recognise the McDonaghs as regulars on the night.
Mr Fahy said other people were refused entry to the premises that evening because they didn’t have drink vouchers to prove they were regulars.
Mr Cunningham said only a short snippet of CCTV from the door was available and it did not show other people being turned away during the time his clients were refused entry. There was no CCTV either, he said, to support the pub’s contention that other people were turned away before and after the time the McDonagh’s arrived at the premises.
Judge King said the pub’s management recognised the McDonagh brothers now and he suggested an adjournment to “test the waters” and see if there was any difficulty with the brothers going to the pub.
“There should be consequences for the pub today,” Tom McDonagh said to the judge.
Mr Cunningham agreed this was a matter his clients wished to pursue.
Tom McDonagh said the doorman realised they were Travellers as they approached the door.
Mr Fahy asked the doorman, Denis Malone, if there was a possibility of a ‘nod and a wink’ going on here to keep the McDonaghs out because they were Travellers.
Mr Malone said he didn’t know the lads were Travellers. He just knew they weren’t regulars because he didn’t recognise them and they didn’t have drink vouchers.
General manager, Martin Meehan, said St Stephen’s Night is one of the busiest nights of the year and staff had been told to admit regulars only as there was a large charity function on the premises that night, while other patrons had pre-booked tables.
“The McDonaghs were refused because they were not regulars and the doorman didn’t know them.
“We do not discriminate and members of the Travelling community often come in,” he told the court.
Mr Meehan said he had a second, longer CCTV tape showing other people being refused entry on the night but he had mislaid it during the Covid lockdown and could not locate it now.
He said there had never been a complaint before and he viewed this complaint very seriously.
Judge King said he accepted the McDonagh brothers had sincerely and genuinely felt they had been discriminated against but he could not find any evidence to back that up.
He dismissed their claims but made no order for costs against them, as he felt they were genuine in their evidence to the court.
Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises
From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.
Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.
She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.
“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.
“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.
She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.
In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.
But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.
“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.
“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.
Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.
However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.
“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.
“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”
In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.
“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”
Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge
The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.
Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.
A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.
The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.
The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.
One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.
Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.
The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.
(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).
Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City
From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.
Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).
Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.
He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.
The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.
At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.
Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.
And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”
Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.
Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.
He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.
The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.
In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.
A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.
“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.