Adjudicator alleges unfair treatment in Irish dancing competition-fixing probe

Adjudicator Alleges Unfair Treatment In Irish Dancing Competition-Fixing Probe
Amanda (Mandy) Hennigan asked the court for an injunction to stop disciplinary proceedings taken by An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG) against her. Photo: PA Images
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High Court reporters

An Irish dancing adjudicator claims she has been unfairly treated in an investigation into allegations of feis competition fixing, the High Court has heard.

Amanda (Mandy) Hennigan is a feis adjudicator and also runs an Irish dancing school in Hertfordshire in the UK.


On Friday, she asked the court for an injunction to stop disciplinary proceedings against her. It is part of proceedings she has brought against An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG), the body that regulates Irish dancing.

The CLRG denies Ms Hennigan's claims that she is being unfairly treated and says the disciplinary process should be allowed to proceed.

She is one of a number of people who have been suspended from adjudicating pending the completion of the investigation. It followed complaints to the CLRG's ethics committee last July.

Ms Hennigan denies any wrongdoing, and her lawyers say the disciplinary process has been irredeemably prejudiced by certain CLRG public statements which "bordered on the hysterical" and predetermined that what happened was gross misconduct.


In seeking an injunction, Gerard Meehan SC, for Ms Hennigan, said the disciplinary process arose from a text message in February 2019 from a fellow adjudicator saying he would "appreciate anything you can do" for a named competitor in a forthcoming event.

The message opened with : "Hi love, hope you're ok, thinking of you..." and ended with thumbs up and kiss emojis, counsel said.

Ms Hennigan had explained to her counsel that this message was part of a normal exchange between herself and the other adjudicator about both their students taking part in competitions. Ms Hennigan said her student never received any favourable treatment.

She also said she had never been given an opportunity to say this, either to the CLRG itself or to a preliminary investigation carried out by a retired judge which led to moves to set up a formal disciplinary hearing, counsel said.


Mr Justice Michael Peart, former appeal court judge, found there was a case to be answered in relation to the allegations.

Mr Meehan said the single text message in February 2019 was the extent of what was alleged against his client. The disciplinary process had to be reconstituted because the initial process had gone "off the rails", he said.


The allegations, which originally appeared anonymously online, included claims that certain adjudicators were offered inducements and sexual favours if certain competitors were marked better, counsel said.

Despite the fact that Ms Hennigan was never the subject of such accusations, she was being "tarred with the same brush" as everybody else who is now accused of breaching the CLRG code of conduct, as well as being suspended, he said.


There was no question of dishonesty in what was being claimed against Ms Hennigan, he said.

Asked by Ms Justice Eileen Roberts what the words "appreciate anything you can do" meant, Mr Meehan said, on the face of it, they can be interpreted "as a submission on behalf of the dancer".

It was important to recognise Irish dancing is a competitive enterprise and entirely dependent on the subjective view of an adjudicator, he said. Trying to influence a judge could range from holding a door for them at a competition to buying them "a load of pints, to offering sexual favours", he said.

However, one could not equate the sending of a text with the more serious claims, he said, because "if everything is a scandal, then nothing is a scandal".


Peter Bland SC said while Mr Meehan argued there is a spectrum of ways to influence an adjudicator which are not provided for in CLRG rules, any professional person sitting in an adjudicative position would be highly sensitive to the text exchange alleged in this case.

"Anyone with a moral compass would come to the same conclusion as Mr Justice Peart did", he said.

Counsel said the injunction should not be granted on grounds including that it did not meet the test that there was a strong case to be tried. The balance of justice also did not favour granting an injunction, he said.

Ms Justice Roberts reserved her decision.

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