Two Roma women awarded €6,000 after being asked to leave Dunnes Stores

Two Roma Women Awarded €6,000 After Being Asked To Leave Dunnes Stores
Two members of the Roma community have been awarded a total of €6,000 compensation against Dunnes Stores. Photo: PA
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Ray Managh

Two members of the Roma community have been awarded a total of €6,000 compensation against Dunnes Stores after a judge held they had been discriminated against on the grounds of race and ethnicity.

Judge John O’Connor, in a reserved judgment in the Circuit Civil Court, told barrister Kate O’Loughlin, who appeared for the two Romanian nationals, that he accepted her clients, an aunt and her niece, had been asked to leave Dunnes in Dublin’s Talbot Street.


He said that while a security officer felt he was doing his job to the best of his ability, Dunnes had failed to properly record previous alleged incidents and had prevented the aunt from paying for groceries which was different to how other shoppers would have been treated.

Judge O’Connor said both ladies had been dressed in their traditional attire and had been accordingly identifiable as being members of a specific ethnic group.


The senior of the two had gone to the store to buy food for her children but had been stopped paying for a cooked chicken and vegetables and had been made leave the store on the grounds she had previously been barred.

The judge said, in deciding the couple’s appeal from a decision of the Workplace Relations Commission, that the security officer had told him there were no formal procedures in place for barring individuals from the store.


Judge O’Connor said the only form of identifying a barred individual on a subsequent visit to the store was by way of memory.

“The shortcomings of such informal procedures were evident in that there was an issue of mistaken identity relating to the Incident Report forms submitted by Dunnes in response to the claim,” Judge O’Connor said.

He said that when requested by way of data access request for all records held by Dunnes pertaining to the appellants, the minimal records provided demonstrated a lack of any sufficient system by which to keep track of members of the public who were allegedly barred and thus prevent misidentification.

Dunnes, which denied having discriminated against the women, claimed they had established that the reason the aunt had been asked to leave the store was for the sole reason that she had been barred. Her niece had not been requested to leave nor had she been told she was barred as she had alleged.


Judge O’Connor said there had been a failure to properly record previous alleged incidents and significantly there had been a mix-up in the discovery documentation disclosed by Dunnes which related to a different person and a different incident.


The court suggested a number of recommendations to assist in setting up a system that if addressed by Dunnes (or any other shop or similar entity) might assist in avoiding or at least mitigating a recurrence of such incidents.

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• Security officers should avoid making assumptions and relying on instinct or memory alone when alleged previous incidents arose.
• There should be a record of previous incidents and an awareness of the problem that identity was frequently a genuine issue.
• There should be awareness of the challenges and obstacles that a minority ethnic person could endure in shopping.
• Where a shopper felt they had been discriminated against an internal objectively-based complaint handling mechanism option should apply.
• An apology, in appropriate circumstances, could go a long way to mitigate any potential damage.

Judge O’Connor said the actions of the two Romanian women, one of whom was underage at the time, were consistent with persons who honestly felt aggrieved that they had been treated unfairly and that their complaints fell within the Equal Status Act.


He awarded the aunt €4,000 and her niece €2,000 and agreed with Ms O’Loughlin, who appeared with Sinead Lucey of FLAC, that the two women were entitled to their legal costs.

On the question of identity Judge O’Connor said almost everyone had been in a situation where they had embarrassed themselves in thinking they recognised someone to only find it was a mistake.

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