A DISABLED man has failed in a bid to take a court action claiming discrimination because a bus did not park close enough to a kerbside stop to allow him board in his wheelchair.
The High Court ruled Michael O'Callaghan could not bring a case for compensation against Bus Eireann over the incident because he should first have appealed an Equality Tribunal ruling that his complaint about the alleged incident was inadmissible.
Mr O'Callaghan (47) Glenamoy, Mayfield, Cork, suffers from a disability which requires him to use a wheelchair to get around.
He claims that on October 31, 2003, he suffered embarrassment, humiliation, upset and inconvenience when a Bus Eireann No. 8 bus failed, neglected or refused to pull up to a bus stop kerb at Merchant's Quay, Cork.
As a result, he claimed, a gap was created whereby he was prevented from boarding the bus, despite requests from him and other members of the public to the driver to pull in nearer the kerb.
Bus Eireann denied the incident happened as he claimed saying the driver had already stopped the bus for another passenger. Mr O'Callaghan's location prevented the driver from using the vehicle's wheelchair ramp because it would have hung in a vertical position.
The driver was unable to comply with Mr O'Callaghan's request that he reverse because traffic had built up behind the bus and such a manoeuvre was dangerous and in breach of traffic law, it was argued.
Mr O'Callaghan then complained to the Equality Authority that this incident was a breach of the Equal Status Act 2000 in that he was discriminated against compared to an able-bodied person. In May 2005, an Equality Tribunal determined his complaint was inadmissible and that the file be closed.
He did not appeal that decision but instead brought Circuit Court proceedings for alleged distress for breach of his equal status, constitutional and European Convention Rights. In this action, he also claimed there were similar incidents when he tried to board buses on four other occasions in November 2004, March 2005, and July 2005
Cork Circuit Court, in November 2005, struck out his action saying that if he had been dissatisfied with the Equality Tribunal decision, he should have appealed the decision.
He appealed the Circuit Court finding and yesterday the High Court's Mr Justice Eamon deValera agreed with the lower court's decision.
Mr Justice de Valera said the Oireachtas had provided an appeal procedure under the Equal Status Act which Mr O'Callaghan had not availed of.
Mr O'Callaghan's counsel, Diarmuid P. O'Donavan, asked the judge to make no order on who should pay the legal costs or else to limit the costs.
The judge said he would award costs against Mr O'Callaghan but said he would expect Bus Eireann to take a "practical and sensible view" in relation to pursuing him for payment.