Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Why Pontins thinks I’m an ‘undesirable guest’

Oh curses, one less option for the summer holidays. Pontins, the holiday camp for those who don’t mind bringing their own cleaning products, has been exposed for issuing a list of surnames belonging to ‘undesirable guests’. Under the legend ‘You Shall Not Pass’ on the company intranet was an instruction: ‘Please be aware that several guests are not welcome at Pontins, however some of these will still try and book… We have been informed by our Operations Director that we do not want these guests on our parks. Please watch out for the following names on ANY bookings.’

There follows a list of 40. There are the O’Briens, the O’Donnells and O’Connells, the Carneys and the Lees, the Leahys, the Sheridans and the Wards. And, you’ve guessed it, the McDonaghs. Now, let’s pass over the thought that Pontins may be missing out on the patronage of the former governor of the Bank of England and the former CEO of Tesco. The list comprises Irish names. If they were names of Muslim heritage… well, you tell me how that would have worked out. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission observed that by declining to provide its services to guests of a certain race or ethnic group, Pontins was ‘directly discriminating on the basis of race’ and breached the UK’s 2010 Equality Act. It has investigated the matter and reached an agreement with the company.

As it was, the story was treated with mild bemusement, though the Irish in Britain took a dim view — back to no blacks or Irish, eh? And what every Irish person looking at the list instantly discerned was that the target group was not so much Irish as traveller. So, along with having a life expectancy way less than that of the general population in Britain and Ireland — half die before the age of 40 and 70 per cent don’t live beyond 60 — travellers have this extra cross to bear: not being able to holiday at Pontins.

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