'Are you gay?' Bus Eireann driver asked two friends
A Bus Eireann driver asked two male passengers if they were gay after one of them presented a free travel pass for himself and his companion, a court heard.
Driver Adeolu Falola asked disabled Mark Armstrong, of Athboy Road, Trim, Co Meath: "Where's your woman? Are you gay?" Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke said.
Barrister Garrett Cooney told the Circuit Civil Court the allegedly defamatory remarks equally applied to both Mr Armstrong and his companion, Daniel Harris, of Kells Road, Trim, Co Meath. He said that on December 14, 2011, the two friends were on their way to Dublin to visit Mr Harris's girlfriend, who had given birth the day before and had joined the bus at Trim.
Mr Armstrong (40), told the court he held a welfare disability "companion pass" entitling him and a person over the age of 16 to travel free.
When Mr Harris had told Mr Falola he was with Mr Armstrong the driver had called Mr Armstrong back to examine the pass.
Both he and Mr Harris had been shocked and embarrassed at being questioned about their sexual orientation. They had ultimately been allowed to board and had sat upstairs. Passengers downstairs had heard the driver's remarks.
Passengers Matthew Ryan and Gwen Reynolds told the court they heard Mr Falola speak abruptly and aggressively. He asked Mr Armstrong "Is he your partner?" and "Are you gay?", to which Mr Armstrong had answered no.
Mr Falola told Gerard O'Herlihy for Bus Eireann that he had to examine the pass because if it was a spouse or partner pass it would be for a man and woman and not a man and man.
He denied asking "Are you gay?" or "Where is your woman?"
Judge Groarke said it was perfectly obvious Mr Falola had meant to demean the plaintiffs by asking the questions he had.
Awarding both men €5,000 damages each, Judge Groarke said they were entirely innocent people who were entitled to travel and had done absolutely nothing wrong.