Irish Travellers win case against JD Wetherspoon

Group barred from Coronet pub on Holloway Road, North London, in 2011

Irish Travellers have won a landmark legal victory in Britain following the High Court’s decision that one of the country’s biggest pub chains, JD Wetherspoon, racially discriminated against them.

Travellers, along with a priest, a policeman, a solicitor and a barrister, were refused entry to The Coronet pub on Holloway Road in North London in 2011 following the annual general meeting nearby of the Traveller Movement.

The pub-chain has been ordered today by Mr Justice Hand, following a three-week High Court battle late last year, to pay £3,000 in compensation to each person barred from the pub.

In his ruling, the judge found that Wetherspoons had breached the Equality Act 2010, in the racially discriminatory way in which it had refused service to the Travellers and those seeking to enter the pub with them.

The decision to bar the group in November 2011 was “suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go.

“In my judgment this is racial stereotyping of those with that ethnic origin. It can be reduced to this crude proposition: whenever Irish Travellers and English Gypsies go to public houses violent disorder is inevitable because that is how they behave,” the judge wrote in his lengthy ruling.

Solicitor Martin Howe, a partner at Howe and Co Solicitors, and who was one of those barred on the day, said: "This judgment will shake to the core all those who engage in racist conduct towards Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies.

“The last bastion of ‘acceptable racism’ has come crashing down.

Shops, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, clubs and pubs will now realise that treating Gypsies and Travellers as second-class citizens is an affront to their dignity that is no longer tolerated.

“Discriminators will pay in damages, in costs and in loss of reputation. This is a watershed day when Gypsies and Travellers no longer have to move on but can hold their heads high in the knowledge that there is equal treatment for all”.

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is News Editor of the The Irish Times