'Undesirable'- UK holiday parks blacklisted people with Irish surnames

by Reuters
Tuesday, 2 March 2021 13:55 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A soldier guards the gate of the Pontins Southport Holiday Park during preparations to support Liverpool ahead of a mass testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ainsdale, Britain, November 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine

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Whistleblower at Pontins says staff were told to refuse or cancel bookings by Irish guests in an effort to keep out Gypsies and Irish Travellers

LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - A British chain of holiday parks was until recently using an "undesirable guest list" to stop people with Irish surnames from making bookings, an anti-discrimination watchdog said on Tuesday.

The list used internally at Pontins and obtained by the i newspaper included surnames commonly found in Ireland and within the Irish diaspora in Britain, such as Doherty, Gallagher, Murphy, Nolan, O'Brien and O'Connell.

The list was aimed at stopping Gypsies and Irish Travellers from staying at Pontins facilities, according to a whistleblower who contacted the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

"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," said Alastair Pringle, the commission's executive director.

"Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement."

The whistleblower told the i that while working in the booking department at Pontins, which runs six holiday parks in England and Wales, he was instructed to refuse or cancel bookings requested by customers whose names were on the list.

Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, the company that owns Pontins, signed a legally binding agreement with the commission in which it pledged to prevent discriminatory practices.

"Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited has agreed to work together with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to further enhance its staff training and procedures in order to further promote equality throughout its business," a spokesman said in a statement posted by the Commission.

The company could not immediately be reached by Reuters for further comment or explanation of the policy.

Irish higher education minister Simon Harris, one of many who reacted to the case in Ireland, said he was saddened and angered.

"As a child, my family and I holidayed in Pontins many times. Childhood memories of a happy place and good times are now replaced by a sense of disgust that such prejudice would exist," he said on Twitter.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the list as "completely unacceptable". (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Elizabeth Piper in London, Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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