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'I'll take it on the chin' - publican facing €100,000 payout after Traveller family turned away

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‘Not our policy: Charlie Chawke leaves the Four Courts yesterday. Picture: Collins

‘Not our policy: Charlie Chawke leaves the Four Courts yesterday. Picture: Collins

CollinsPhotoAgency

Freda Connors

Freda Connors

CollinsPhotoAgency

Kathleen Connors

Kathleen Connors

CollinsPhotoAgency

Wayne Buggle

Wayne Buggle

CollinsPhotoAgency

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‘Not our policy: Charlie Chawke leaves the Four Courts yesterday. Picture: Collins

Publican Charlie Chawke has said he will "take on the chin" a judge's ruling that his pub defamed a Traveller family, which could cost his business more than €100,000.

But the owner of the well-known Orchard Inn in Rathfarnham, Dublin, insisted that his company "have nothing against the Travelling community".

Mr Chawke said he had to back his manager, "because he was allegedly threatened to have his throat slashed" during the incident.

However, a judge completely rejected this version of events yesterday, awarding the Connors family a total €33,000 damages and heavily criticising the pub's attitude.

"What happened at the Orchard Inn on Sunday, September 11, 2016, in Ireland at the close of the second decade of the 21st century, is shocking," Judge John O'Connor said.

"It's reminiscent of a dark period of Irish history that we thought was over," he told barrister Kevin D'Arcy, counsel for Freda, Patrick, Kathleen and Larry Connors.

"It should never have happened," Judge O'Connor said. "There was a clear policy that they were to be excluded and I would advise the owner that he should change that."

The judge described them as a very decent family that had been the subject of humiliation and denigration at the premises on Butterfield Avenue. He said on that particular day the Connors family was never going to get into the Orchard pub-restaurant and it was simply because of their ethnicity and a deliberate policy to exclude Travellers.

Judge O'Connor said the evidence of the bar restaurant manager, Wayne Buggle, who had refused them entry, had been evasive and the court had found it disturbing that throughout his evidence he had kept referring to the Connors family as "these people".

He said the effect on Freda Connors (31), whose family lives at Stocking Hill, Rathfarnham, had been particularly disturbing. She was a heavily pregnant mother who had her young children with her.

The judge did not accept that when asked by Mr Buggle if he had a reservation Patrick Connors had immediately said: "Get out of my way or I'll slit your throat."

Mr D'Arcy, who appeared for the family with Spellman Callaghan Solicitors, Clondalkin, told the court the family had turned up at the restaurant for Sunday lunch and had been refused entry allegedly because they did not have a booking.

While they were remonstrating with Mr Buggle, other families were walking in without being asked whether they had a booking or not.

Counsel said there had been an incident in the Orchard Inn several weeks earlier involving a Traveller group not associated with his clients and it was his case the Connors had been excluded because they were Travellers. A priest who had just had lunch in the restaurant, Fr Derek Farrell, knew them and had told Mr Buggle they were a respectable family.

Judge O'Connor said he believed the Connors were excluded because of the incident weeks earlier in the pub.

He awarded Freda Connors €15,000 damages and awarded €6,000 damages to Patrick, Kathleen and Larry Connors.

The judge told Mr D'Arcy he would award Circuit Court costs in each case against The Orchard Inn, which is likely to add up to more than €100,000 for all parties' costs including defendants'.

Judge

Afterwards Mr Chawke said: "I had to defend my manager because he was allegedly threatened to have his throat slashed, so I have to defend him.

"The judge saw it a different way so that's it really."

He added: "It's not our policy to refuse anybody. We need everybody's money and the situation got out of hand. I've got to take it on the chin and carry on from here.

"We run upstanding businesses and we do the best we can. We've never had anything like this before.

"We certainly have nothing against the Travelling community. Never. We have never had a problem before and hopefully we never again will have one."

Irish Independent