Revealed: Full list of Irish surnames on Pontins ‘blacklist’ as holiday company hit with new sanctions

15 February 2024, 13:51 | Updated: 15 February 2024, 13:52

Pontins holiday camp at Pakefield, near Lowestoft, Suffolk
Pontins holiday camp at Pakefield, near Lowestoft, Suffolk. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Holiday park operator Pontins has apologised after it was served a legal notice for 'shocking overt race discrimination' towards Irish Travellers - which included creating a list of common Irish surnames labelled 'undesirable guests'.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said staff were instructed to decline or cancel bookings made under surnames on the "banned guest" list.

The holiday park operator's call centre staff were told to listen for Irish accents to identify Travellers and decline or cancel their bookings.

People Pontin's suspected of being Irish Travellers were then put on the "banned guest" list along with their associates, family or friends, the watchdog said.

Holiday apartments at Pontins Camber Sands Holiday Park, Camber, East Sussex
Holiday apartments at Pontins Camber Sands Holiday Park, Camber, East Sussex. Picture: Alamy

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According to documents sourced last year, first by the i newspaper, the list of undesirable guests includes:

  • Boylan
  • Boyle
  • Carney
  • Carr
  • Cash
  • Connors
  • Corcoran
  • Delaney
  • Doherty
  • Dorran
  • Gallagher
  • Horan
  • Keefe
  • Kell
  • Leahy
  • Lee
  • MacLaughlin
  • McAlwick
  • McCully
  • McDonagh
  • McGinley
  • McGinn
  • McGuiness
  • McHarg
  • McLaughan
  • McMahon
  • Millighan
  • Mongans
  • Murphy
  • Nolan
  • O'Brien
  • O'Connell
  • O'Donnell
  • O'Donoghue
  • O'Mahoney
  • O'Reilly
  • Sheriadan
  • Stokes
  • Walch
  • Ward
Pontins holiday park in Camber Sands, East Sussex, after the company announced the immediate closure of the site along with another of their sites in Prestatyn, Wales
Pontins holiday park in Camber Sands, East Sussex, after the company announced the immediate closure of the site along with another of their sites in Prestatyn, Wales. Picture: Alamy

Pontin's, owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, engaged in "shocking overt race discrimination", the commission said.

They also brought in rules requiring guests to appear on the electoral register, which the commission said was a discriminatory practice against Gypsies and Travellers, who are less likely to be on the register.

The operator said it is reviewing the commission's findings but insisted the incidents are "historic issues" and said it is committed to ensuring it complies with the Equality Act.

The charity Friends, Families and Travellers said while the findings were "deeply saddening", it did not come as a surprise.

Chris McDonagh, campaigns officer at the charity said Pontins are not the only providers operating such discriminatory policies.

A whistleblower originally revealed the discriminatory practices, having shared the list of "undesirable guests" with the EHRC in 2020.

The watchdog entered into a legally binding agreement with Pontins in 2021 to end the practices and prevent further discrimination but terminated that agreement the following year and launched a formal investigation, after it said Pontins failed to comply with its terms.

It has now been served with an unlawful act notice and must, by law, produce an action plan to set out how it intends to meet the EHRC's recommendations.

The watchdog said Pontins must apologise to and engage with the Gypsy and Traveller community, "acknowledging their corporate responsibility and committing to a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination"; monitor booking cancellations and failures in order to identify future or remaining issues; and review and update their policies and procedures to ensure they are not discriminatory.

The EHRC said it must also remove terms that stipulate electoral roll checks, and develop and deliver training, including equality training around the legal duty to not discriminate.

The action plan is enforceable in court under section 22 of the Equality Act 2006, with criminal sanctions for failure to comply, the watchdog said.

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