If the Deputy checks on the report of the Commission on Liquor Licensing on that issue, he will see that a number of options were put by it to me, one of which was to consolidate the jurisdiction in the District Court. A number of options were put to me and I chose that particular one.
Whereas the Deputy mentions that up to 12 groups have expressed dissatisfaction, I am of the view that the great majority of people support me in the choice I have made. In difficult and stressful circumstances a publican is faced with a choice as to whether to admit somebody, knowing that one tribunal, the District Court, may in the fullness of time hold him or her accountable for the decision made in admitting the person and punish him or her for letting the person in, whereas another tribunal may seek to make a compensation against him or her for making the opposite decision and refusing admission. The great majority of people believe that one tribunal should decide this issue, one way or the other, and that one tribunal should exercise discipline over licensees in respect of their admission policies. It has been suggested consistently that in some sense the Equality Acts are being disapplied from this issue, but that is not so. They still apply in toto.
It has been consistently ignored that this is a measure which actually strengthens the remedies available because a District Court judge can now close a premises which, for instance, refused a gay or lesbian person admission in a discriminatory fashion. If there were a continued pattern of behaviour along those lines, the licence of that pub could be revoked.
The Equality Authority can assist any person who wants to bring a claim for compensation in the District Court or to object to a licence in the District Court, and can effectively act asamicus curiae for that person in those circumstances. It is a fair, reasonable, balanced solution to a real problem and I am quite happy that the great majority of people agree with me on this issue.