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On-board comedians who dabbled in national stereotypes met their match in an Irish man who sued rather than heckled.

An Irish man who brought a civil claim against the owners of a cruise ship after he was the butt of jokes told by comedians on board two of its vessels has won an out-of-court payment.

John Wolfe, 74, a retired builder from Dublin, claimed the jokes, which allegedly stereotyped Irish people, were deeply offensive and left him feeling humiliated. He complained to P&O after he and his wife Joan were on board a worldwide cruise on the Oriana five years ago and brought a claim against Carnival Plc, the owners of the company.

During the trip, he claimed that two comedians entertained passengers by telling a series of Irish jokes in their routines. After allegedly receiving reassurances from the company such jokes would be banned and the Wolfes were given £1,000 of vouchers to spend, they were surprised and upset to hear similar jokes when they took another P&O cruise in 2008 – to the Caribbean on board the Artemis.

Wolfe brought a civil claim against Carnival Plc – the owners of P&O – under race relations legislation as well as the European Union’s race directive – a ruling which sets out the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin.

The case was due to be heard at the Manchester Civil Justice centre but has been settled out of court.

Wolfe, who represented himself during proceedings, said he couldn’t comment on the settlement, but it is believed to be a five-figure sum. The claim that he had been a victim of racial discrimination was struck out by the court.

At a hearing in May, District Judge Anthony Harrison said the case centred on whether Carnival was “vicariously liable” – that is, whether they were responsible for the actions of the comedians. Carnival argued that as the comedians were employed by a sub-contractor – and not directly by them – it is not responsible for the offensive jokes.

The company also claims that as the alleged incidents took place outside UK waters, they do not fall under the jurisdiction of its laws. It argues that a settlement was reached with Wolfe following his first complaint and because he was given £1,000 worth of vouchers, this effectively precluded him pursuing a further complaint.

A P&O spokesperson said: “We can confirm that this case has been resolved amicably out of court to the satisfaction of both parties.”


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