Irish dancer, 12, fails in court bid to gain entry to competition and may now face sizeable legal costs

A 12-year-old girl has failed in her bid to secure a High Court order allowing her enter a forthcoming world championship Irish dancing qualifier and may now face sizable legal costs bill.

Mr Justice Tony O’Connor ruled UK based Ella McCarthy was not entitled to an injunction restraining An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG) from preventing her from competiing in the Irish Dancing World Championships qualifying round.

The Judge said while he had every sympathy for and understood Ella’s disappointment the legal arguments raised by Ella were "tentative" and not so strong that they would merit the granting of an injunction pending the outcome of the final hearing of the dispute.

Neither Ella nor her mother were in court for the ruling.

Ella who is ranked in the top 10 Irish dancers in the world, sought the order against the CLRG, an organisation that regulates and runs competitive Irish step dancing.

The High Court heard that through no fault of her own Ella, of Kranlee House, St Andrews Park, Burnetts Lane, Horton Heath in Southampton was not allowed enter CLRG competitions for six months under the governing body’s rules because she had to switch dancing teachers.

As a result of having to switch teachers last July Ella cannot take part in a world championship qualifier in Southern England due to take place next week, or next year’s World Irish Dancing Championships.

Suing through her mother, Ms Kirsty Blair McCarthy, Ella sought orders including an injunction restraining the CLRG from preventing her from competition in the Irish Dancing World Championships qualifying round.

Kirsty Blair McCarthy at a previous court sitting

The CLRG, represented by Dermot Hewson Bl. had denied any wrongdoing on its part and urged the court to dismiss the application.

Giving his decision Mr Justice O’Connor said the reason Ella had to move teachers was due to a breakdown in the relationship between her mother, who is registered dancing teacher with CLRG, and the head of the London school Ella had previously attended.

While looking at the overall case he said the points raised on Ella’s behalf were not ones which raised a strong case likely to succeed at a full hearing.

The Judge said that he had also taken into consideration the impact that granting such an order would have on the CLRG’s ability to regulate Irish dancing.

The Judge said he understood Ella’s disappointment that the court was not making an order in her favour, meaning she would not be able to dance in the 2018 world championships.

This would also affect her rankings for future world championships

This the Judge said meant she would have to try harder in order to qualify for those future events. However "having to try harder is the best way to improve oneself," the Judge added.

The Judge also said the CLRG was entitled to their legal costS against Ella and the court did not want to encourage the bringing of claims by the parents of children involved in recreational activities against organisations that govern such activities.

However he said he was placing a stay on the costs order for two years.

Seeking the injunction Ella’s counsel Gerard Meehan Bl had argued she was being disciplined because she had to move teachers after she was expelled from her previous school.

After the proceedings were launched a sub committee of the CLRG had considered Ella’s application for a waiver that would allow her compete.

However that application was tuned down, and no reason was given for the decision, and Ella had no right of an appeal, it was argued.

The CLRG argued the six month "re styling" period was not imposed as a disciplinary measure.

The rule was put in place to protect young dancers from having too much pressure put on them by their parents, teachers and themselves.

Mr Hewson also argued that the granting of an injunction would grossly undermine its ability to regulate Irish Dancing competitions.


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