Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew calls for urgent action over Pontins 'anti-Irish/anti-Traveller' policy

A whistleblower revealed Pontins was using an "undesirable guests" list to exclude Gypsies and Travellers. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA Wire
A whistleblower revealed Pontins was using an "undesirable guests" list to exclude Gypsies and Travellers. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA Wire

CALLS have been made for a British holiday company to take urgent action following revelations that it was operating an anti-Irish and anti-Traveller policy.

Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew described the revelations about Pontins as "deeply concerning".

A whistleblower revealed how the company had a list of Irish surnames it used to 'screen out' bookings for its holiday parks.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who investigated said Pontins had an "undesirable guests" list on its intranet of mainly common Irish names to identify people it did not want at its parks.

The were 40 names on the list list including Boyle, Keefe, Gallagher, O'Donnell, McGuiness, Murphy, and O'Reilly.

It was found that staff monitored calls and refused or cancelled bookings made by certain people with an Irish accent or surname, and Pontins' commercial vehicle policy excluded Gypsies and Travellers from its holiday parks.

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 2010 Equality Act, the EHRC said.

News of the investigation was first reported by the i news website.

Alastair Pringle, Executive Director at EHRC, said: "It is hard not to draw comparisons with an 'undesirable guests' list and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people.

"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," he said.

Pontins said it would "enhance staff training and procedures" at the firm, and would take measures "to promote equality throughout its business".

Mrs Gildernew described the findings as "deeply concerning and quite frankly infuriating that in 2021, anti-Irish and anti-Traveller racism continues in Britain".

"This blacklist harks back to a time when posters barring Irish people were displayed in bars, hotels and other public establishments across Britain," she said.

"The Britannia Hotel Group, who own Pontins, must immediately ensure that those responsible for composing this blacklist are held fully accountable and that all forms of discrimination are eradicated from its business practices."