A former senior garda, retired county registrars and practising barristers are among those who have agreed to sit on disciplinary panels to consider allegations of competition fixing in Irish dancing.
Irish dancing’s governing body, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), has brought in external individuals to sit on three-person panels for disciplinary hearings against 44 individuals to consider complaints that they were involved in attempts to fix higher marks for students in dance competitions.
CLRG said last month that it planned to schedule disciplinary hearings for people identified by an independent investigation team that examined allegations of wrongdoing at competitions.
It is understood that hearings have yet to be scheduled, with the international spread of the individuals and the large-scale nature of CLRG said to be complicating factors in organising them.
This followed a High Court ruling in a case taken by one of the 44 individuals, Irish dancing teacher and adjudicator Amanda Hennigan, in which Ms Justice Eileen Roberts halted her suspension but ruled that CLRG could proceed with disciplinary hearings over the allegations.
In the wake of the court ruling, the CLRG has declined to lift the suspensions of others caught up in the scandal.
Ms Hennigan denied allegations of competition fixing, arguing that “no favouritism was sought or provided” for her dancer after she sent a text message to a judge at the 2019 All Ireland Championships telling him she would “appreciate anything you can do” for one of her students.
CLRG is reviewing the ruling to assess the implications for the other 43 individuals who have been suspended from dance competitions pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearings.
Details of the proposed disciplinary hearing were outlined during Ms Hennigan’s court action.
CLRG told the judge there had been delays in finding people with suitable experience and availability to participate on the disciplinary panel while taking account of gender balance, but that it hoped to have a panel of at least 12 to sit on committees to hear the allegations.
The court was told that among the people who have agreed to join a panel, from which they may be nominated to hear and determine the allegations, are retired county registrars, practising barristers, a retired senior garda and human resources experts.
Last month, CLRG said in a statement that a number of experienced individuals from HR, legal, business and management backgrounds had been recruited in consultation with its legal advisers as members of the external disciplinary panel to adjudicate the cases.
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The commission said it has updated its disciplinary procedures that will allow the panel to “address the differing degrees of alleged misconduct, account for the international spread of cases to be heard and permit legal representation”.
In her ruling last month, Ms Justice Roberts found there was no certainty that Ms Hennigan’s text exchange met the threshold for gross misconduct and that the wording was equivocal.
She refused to stop the disciplinary process, saying that her “complaints, however valid, do not demonstrate that at this point in time the disciplinary process has gone irremediably wrong”.
Ms Justice Roberts said that it was imperative that CLRG start the disciplinary process as soon as possible, as delays could allow Ms Hennigan to complain about being prejudiced.
The text messages were first sent in a complaint to CLRG’s ethics committee last summer and later posted online, leading the commission to ask former appeals court judge Mr Justice Michael Peart to determine whether the individuals had a disciplinary case to answer.
In October, the retired judge found that there was sufficient evidence for the matter to be fully investigated and considered under CLRG’s disciplinary procedures.
In his four-page report – seen by The Irish Times – the judge said he had seen screenshots of the text messages that formed the basis of the complaints.
“These speak for themselves,” he wrote in his decision on the preliminary investigation.