Holiday firm Pontins kept a blacklist of Irish surnames to stop Gypsies and Travellers booking
Holiday firm Pontins has admitted having a blacklist of Irish names to bar Gypsies and Traveller families from its parks.
Anyone trying to book with a surname like Boyle, Connors, Delaney, Dogherty, Murphy and O’Reilly was told there was no space.
The list was placed on the Pontin’s intranet site under the heading “Undesirable Guests”.
Forty names in alphabetical order were shown with a cartoon character of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.
The headline was “You Shall Not Pass”.
Instructions to staff said: “We do not want these guests in our ranks”.
A whistle blower – known only as Ian – said they were told to “lie through their teeth” and insist no places were available for booking.
Pontins agreed to change its booking policy after an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Downing Street condemned the list as “completely unacceptable”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson added:
“No-one in the UK should be discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity.
“It’s right that the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Pontins investigate and address this.”
The EHRC said Pontins was “directly discriminating on the basis of race”.
It had breached the 2010 Equality Act by declining to provide its services to guests of a distinct race or ethnic group protected against discrimination.
The EHRC has told Pontins’ owner – Britannia Hotel Group – to investigate the practice, review its booking police and give staff annual diversity and equality training.
Alastair Pringle, the EHRC’s executive director, said:
“It is hard not to draw comparisons with an ‘undesirable guest list’ and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people.
“Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. Any business that believes this is acceptable should think again before they find themselves facing legal action.”
Sarah Mann, director at the Friends, Families and Travellers charity, said:
“Prejudice and discrimination towards Gypsy and Traveller people is alive and thriving in society.
It is shameful that Pontins have acted in this way for so long before they were stopped.”
Whistle blower Ian said:
“You just had to lie through your teeth.
“Every now and again, a caller would twig and say something like ‘do you have a problem with me?’ or ‘is it because I’m a Traveller?’.
“We just had to say of course not and find an excuse [for turning down a reservation].”