A woman who said she was turned away by a Kilkenny hotel when her partner mentioned they would be bringing her guide dog is to be paid €5,000 in compensation for discriminatory treatment.
The Workplace Relations Commission was told the hotel manager objected to the guide dog on the grounds that his own dogs would be "barking all night" if it was there.
Pamela McKeogh's complaint against the Kilkenny House Hotel under the Equal Status Act 2000 was upheld in a decision published this morning – nearly three years since her story was raised on RTÉ’s Liveline in November 2019.
Her boyfriend, Kevin Ryan, told the Workplace Relations Commission in January that after he emailed the hotel to mention that the couple would be bringing a guide dog for a one-night stay on 19 November 2019, it wrote back to say "dogs were not allowed".
He said he tried to resolve the matter by phoning ahead and then by calling to the hotel, and eventually spoke to the manager by phone.
The manager told him: "Look, I’m going to cancel your booking. I have dogs myself and those dogs will be barking and going mad if you bring your guide dog," Mr Ryan told the tribunal.
"I said: 'But you can’t do that, it’s a guide dog.’"
The manager’s response was: "I don’t want to hear any more about it," Mr Ryan added.
He said he and Ms McKeogh had to find somewhere else to stay that night.
The hotel denied discrimination and said the online booking the couple had made came with conditions attached.
In January, its solicitor Mary Molloy said guests with guide dogs could only be accommodated in "specific rooms that do not have carpets, that do not have stairs or other impediments, that are equally accessible and are located at ground-floor level".
"The room on offer was not a specifically designated room which could accommodate animals, nor was such a room requested in circumstances where the person making the booking surely was aware that they required a specific type of room," she said.
The accessible room "simply wasn't available", she said.
The tribunal was told in January that the hotel manager, Mr Dore, was too ill to attend the hearing and give evidence.
The matter was re-listed for hearing in June, when the official in charge of the case noted that Mr Dore was again unable to attend.
On that date, Mr Ryan said: "I have never in my life been treated so badly as a customer. Never. Not only are they discriminating against my girlfriend but I feel they are making me out to be a liar."
"I feel really hurt today that I have been dragged through this again," he added.
Ms Molloy told Mr Ryan that there had been "absolutely no intent from my client to discriminate" against him or Ms McKeogh.
"It is unfortunate that you have perceived it as a discrimination," she said.
Adjudicating officer Andrew Heavey wrote that he did not accept the hotel’s claim that it allowed guide dogs and simply had no rooms available on the night.
He wrote that he accepted Mr Ryan’s account of his dealings with the hotel manager and found that the message sent the day after the booking was "clear and unambiguous".
"The complainant was discriminated against on the grounds of disability," he wrote, and ordered the Kilkenny House Hotel to pay Ms McKeogh €5,000 in compensation.