"Racist Gandalf" Used By English Holiday Park To Blacklist Irish

Chris Green and Cahal Milmo of The i Newspaper (as read by Marvel Comics superhero Union Jack) broke the news that English holiday park company Pontins had created a list of undesirable holidaymakers to be refused entry at Pontin parks, courtesy of a series of Irish-sounding surnames. They state that "the list was uploaded to the Pontins intranet under the heading "Undesirable Guests", instructing call handlers that people using these names were 'unwelcome'". The list is headed by an image of Gandalf from Lord Of The Rings and a line based on the one that Ian McKellen made famous in the movies, "None Shall Pass!"

"Racist Gandalf" Used By English Holiday Park To Blacklist Irish Travellers
Gandalf from Pontins Intranet

An investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that the company had been using the blacklist, leaked from Pontins' intranet, of mainly Irish surnames as part of a policy of refusing bookings by Irish Travellers to its holiday parks. And 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 had "breached the Equality Act".

As a result, they state that the Britannia Hotel Group, which owns Pontins, has signed a legally binding agreement with equality watchdog to address the issues raised by the whistleblower who gave the story to The i Newspaper, and to change its working practices and culture. And that this blacklist as part of a system of routine discrimination against Gypsy and Traveller families in the UK.

An investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that the company had been using the blacklist of mainly Irish surnames as part of a policy of refusing bookings by Gypsies and Travellers to its holiday parks. As a result, the company must now investigate the blacklist, review the firm's booking policies and run annual equality and diversity training for staff.

Alastair Pringle, the EHRC's executive director, told the i newspaper that "It is hard not to draw comparisons with an 'undesirable guest list' and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people. Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement. It is right to challenge such practices and any business that believes this is acceptable should think again before they find themselves facing legal action."

That Gandalf himself was based on Odin in his "Traveller" guise, and as a figure travels from town to town, to dwelling to dwelling, without a permanent fixed him himself, is an irony that doesn't seem to have figured in this story as much.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.