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 judge told a court.
Driver Adeolu Falola asked disabled Mark Armstrong, of Athboy Road, Trim, Co Meath: "Where's your woman? Are you gay?" Mr Justice Raymond Groarke said.
Barrister Garrett Cooney told the Circuit Civil Court the allegedly defamatory remarks applied to both Mr Armstrong and his companion, Daniel Harris, of Kells Road, Trim.
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.
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 Harris had told Falola he was with Armstrong the driver called Armstrong back to examine the pass.
Both he and Harris had been shocked and embarrassed at being questioned about their sexual orientation. They had ultimately been allowed to board and had sat upstairs.
Armstrong said he had taken details from two downstairs passengers, Matthew Ryan and Gwen Reynolds who overheard the driver, because he had decided to complain to Bus Eireann. Both Ryan and Reynolds told the court they heard Falola speak aggressively. He asked Armstrong "Is he your partner?" and "Are you gay?"
Driver 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?"
Judge Groarke said he did not have to decide whether or not calling a person gay could give rise to an action in defamation. He said what had taken place constituted negligence for embarrassment, hurt and humiliation suffered by the two.
Awarding the men €5,000 damages each, Judge Groarke said they were entitled to travel and had done absolutely nothing wrong.