Boxing star turned away by nightclub

 

FORMER OLYMPIC boxer Francis Barrett says he feels like “quitting Galway forever” after he was refused entry into a nightclub in the city early this week.

An English businessman and promoter who witnessed the incident says he was “sickened” by the treatment of Mr Barrett.

“Ironically, this was on the same night that President Barack Obama spoke of overcoming racism in his inauguration speech,” Keith Walker told The Irish Times.

The Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) says it is “very disappointed” at the occurrence in a city which “hails itself as inclusive”. The movement also condemned a separate incident where racist graffiti was daubed on a Traveller’s caravan at the entrance to the city’s Carrowbrowne halting site earlier this week.

Mr Barrett, who carried the Tricolour for the Irish team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, returned from England to live in Galway with his family eight months ago. He has been cast for a new feature film due to be made in Galway this year by producer and director Stephen Kenny, entitled Blood, Sweat and Wars.

Mr Barrett said he has encountered four incidents where he was refused entry to premises since his return but last Tuesday night was “the most humiliating”. He is consulting legal advisers about the matter.

Mr Walker, a property developer and boxing promoter, said he was in the nightclub with another businessman on Tuesday night and asked Mr Barrett to join them.

“My colleague really wanted to meet Francis, and Francis said he would drop in and talk to us outside. When he arrived, he phoned me and a bouncer on the premises heard me mention his name. The bouncer then said to me that ‘Francis Barrett won’t be coming in here’, but I didn’t take much heed of it,” Mr Walker said.

“We went outside to talk to Francis, and my contact then tried to persuade Francis to come in and have a drink. He wouldn’t, but with some persuasion he said he would come in for a glass of water.

“At this point, the bouncer at the door refused, and said it was because of Francis’s dress code,” Mr Walker said.

“There were about 10 people on the premises at the time, and Francis was probably one of the best dressed there.

“Things got a bit heated, but I have to say that the bouncer provoked Francis. Anyone would have got upset in similar circumstances.”

Mr Walker said he had been endeavouring to locate a premises for a boxing tournament in Galway.

“If this is the experience of someone who is regarded as an ambassador for their community, where are we?” Mr Barrett said he had been upset and “humiliated” in his home city.

“Three months after the Olympic Games, myself and my brother were refused entry to a premises in Salthill, but I would have hoped things would have changed in 12 years.

“As it is, I know many peaceful members of the Travelling community who just won’t go out as they can’t face the embarrassment of being refused entry.”

Mr Kenny said he was very disappointed at attitudes in Galway.

“Francis Barrett is one of the kindest and most popular people in Galway, but I’ve had to ask permission on his behalf to allow him to enter premises where we might want to meet to have a chat.”