LONDON – A chain of holiday parks in Britain kept an “undesirable guests” list of Irish last names in an attempt to keep out members of the Irish Traveler community, the U.K. equalities watchdog said Tuesday.
The list kept by Pontins, which was displayed on a staff intranet site, contained about 40 largely Irish names, including Cash, Delaney, Gallagher, Murphy and O’Brien. News of the list was broken by the i newspaper.
Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission said Pontins was “directly discriminating on the basis of race” by refusing to serve guests of a particular ethnic group. It said staff refused or canceled bookings made by people with an Irish name or accent.
Irish Travelers are a traditionally nomadic group similar to, but ethnically distinct from, Gypsy or Roma people. They are a recognized ethnic minority in Britain, where many have lived for generations, and have long suffered discrimination.
Alastair Pringle, the equality commission’s executive director, said it was “hard not to draw comparisons” with “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,” he said. “To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, said Pontins’ behavior was “completely unacceptable.”
“No one in the U.K. should be discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity,” he said.
Founded in the 1940s when foreign vacations were a rarity, Pontins offers inexpensive package holidays by the seaside, including accommodations, meals and entertainment. At the firm’s peak, there were about 30 Pontins sites in the U.K., but only half a dozen are still operating.
The equality commission said Pontins’ owner, Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd., had signed a legally binding agreement to end its discriminatory practices.
Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd. said in a statement it “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.”