District Court directs pub group JD Wetherspoon to pay €6,500 to Traveller woman refused service

Former minister Mary Hanafin and retired garda gave evidence in support of discrimination case

The District Court has directed a chain pub operator to pay €6,500 and write a letter of apology to a Traveller woman who was refused service.

Former Government minister Mary Hanafin and a retired garda gave evidence in support of Margaret O’Leary’s case alleging discrimination on the part of JD Wetherspoon, trading as The Forty Foot.

Ms O’Leary claimed a bar staff member refused to serve her, saying she was drunk, when she went to the seafront pub after attending a prize-giving ceremony in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council’s nearby office.

Ms O’Leary denied she was drunk and sued JD Wetherspoon under section 19 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act of 2003, which relates to “prohibited conduct” such as discrimination.


JD Wetherspoon contested her claim and denied there was discrimination. It acknowledged a member of staff refused to serve her but claimed the member had formed a view she was intoxicated.

After hearing the case on Wednesday, Judge Nicola Andrews found in Ms O’Leary’s favour. She directed the pub operator to pay her €6,500 and write her an apology.

Ms Hanafin said Ms O’Leary, who is a supervisor with Southside Travellers Action Group, was at the Cathaoirleach’s awards last June in support of her friend and colleague who was being honoured for encouraging young Travellers into education and training.

Ms Hanafin is a Fianna Fáil councillor for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and was the Cathaoirleach (council chairperson) at the time of the awards. She said drink and food was consumed for only a short period and that it was not available for most of the ceremony.

Ms O’Leary had been in her company for several hours and they chatted coherently after the ceremony, said Ms Hanafin. The representative said Ms O’Leary was absolutely not drunk.

Ms O’Leary then joined other attendees who had gone ahead to The Forty Foot.

Speaking outside court, solicitor Mary Toher, of Vincent Toher & Co, said her client is a woman of “great courage and conviction”. This was a “particularly unfortunate” incident that had to be dealt with in an appropriate forum, she said.

“One would hope that the decision would deter establishments from acting in such a distasteful manner,” she added.

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Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter