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UK holiday park operator used blacklist of common Irish surnames to stop bookings from Traveller families

The list was uploaded to the Pontins intranet under the heading ‘Undesirable Guests’.

Image: PA

UK HOLIDAY FIRM Pontins has agreed to change its working practices and culture after it was revealed it was operating a blacklist as part of a system of routine discrimination against Gypsy and Traveller families. 

An investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in the UK found that the company had been using the blacklist of mainly Irish surnames as part of a policy of refusing bookings by Gypsies and Travellers to its holiday parks. 

The list was uploaded to the Pontins intranet under the heading ‘Undesirable Guests’, instructing call handlers to refuse requests for booking. 

Names on the extensive list included Boylan, Gallagher, Lee, McGinley, O’Brien and O’Reilly. 

According to the Commission, the Britannia Hotel Group has now signed a legally binding agreement with the EHRC to prevent racial discrimination. 

The information was received by the EHRC from a whistleblower in February 2020 alleging that the company operated a discriminatory booking policy that excluded Gypsies and Travellers.

“By declining to provide its services to guests of a certain race or ethnic group, Pontins was directly discriminating on the basis of race and breached the Equality Act 2010,” the EHRC said. 

The discriminatory practices included:

  • monitoring calls within its contact centre and refusing or cancelling any bookings that were made by people with an Irish accent or surname;
  • a list of Irish surnames, published on its intranet page, titled ‘undesirable guests’ which required staff to block any potential customers with those names from booking; and
  • using its Commercial Vehicles policy to exclude Gypsies and Travellers from its holiday parks.

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. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement. 

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“It is right to challenge such practices and any business that believes this is acceptable should think again before they find themselves facing legal action. 

“We will continue to work with Pontins and Britannia Jinky Jersey to ensure that our agreement is adhered to and its practices improve.” 

Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd has been contacted for comment. 

  • TOUGH START: Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to investigate if the opportunity gap for Traveller children is ever going to close.

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