Irish dancing judge gets injunction halting suspension over alleged 'feis fixing'

Irish Dancing Judge Gets Injunction Halting Suspension Over Alleged 'Feis Fixing'
The action was taken by Amanda Hennigan, a feis adjudicator who also runs an Irish dancing school in Hertfordshire in the UK. Photo: PA
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High Court reporters

An injunction has been granted by the High Court halting the suspension of an Irish dancing adjudicator as part of an investigation into allegations of feis competition fixing.

However, Ms Justice Eileen Roberts refused to stop the investigation against Amanda Hennigan, a feis adjudicator who also runs an Irish dancing school in Hertfordshire in the UK.


Ms Hennigan was suspended by the dancing regulatory body, An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG), following complaints that text messages between 12 named individuals, including Ms Hennigan, and an adjudicator for the 2019 All-Ireland Championships were a sample of "alleged corruption that takes place amongst registered members in the organisation".

The number of people against whom allegations are made has now grown to 44.

The court heard the complaint against Ms Hennigan arose out of an exchange of texts between her and another adjudicator saying he would "appreciate anything you can do" for a named student in a competition she was judging.

Complaints were made that the text messages involving the 12 individuals showed breaches of the CLRG code of conduct which makes the receiving or any reward or showing any favour or disfavour a matter for disciplinary process.


Ms Hennigan denies that claim and said the text exchange was just part of normal "submissions" which did not affect how competitors were marked.


A preliminary investigation into the complaints by a retired appeal court judge, Mr Justice Michael Peart, found that "broadly speaking" the allegations were that "a number" of individuals had sought to have their pupils get favourable treatment from the adjudicator who was the identified recipient of these messages, in exchange for favours, including sexual favours.

Ms Hennigan's lawyers argued Mr Justice Peart's finding had been misinterpreted and treated as though it had said "all" such teachers rather than "a number of such teachers". Ms Hennigan's messages were of an entirely different nature to other messages considered by Mr Justice Peart, it was argued.

Mr Justice Peart found there was a prima facie case to answer in relation to the allegations and Ms Hennigan was suspended from judging pending completion of the investigation.


She brought High Court proceedings seeking, among other things, an injunction stopping the suspension and the disciplinary process on grounds it was irredeemably prejudiced by certain CLRG public statements which she claimed "bordered on the hysterical" and predetermined that what happened was gross misconduct.

The CLRG opposed the application.

On Friday, Ms Justice Roberts found Ms Hennigan had established a strong case that she was not afforded natural justice in relation to her suspension.

She said Mr Justice Peart, in his preliminary investigation, took into account that there was no clear evidence before the court that anyone made a prima facie finding of gross misconduct against Ms Hennigan.


There was no certainty in the text exchange involving Ms Hennigan that, on its face, it meets the threshold for gross misconduct and the wording of the exchange was equivocal, Ms Justice Roberts said.

"It does not expressly seek or offer any favourable treatment, and the evidence is that none was received", she said.

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"The complaint against the plaintiff (Ms Hennigan) was considered not as a standalone complaint but rather, in the eye of a media storm, in tandem with multiple other complaints of a different and more explicit character," she said.

The court had a concern that the manner in which the complaint against Ms Hennigan was amalgamated with others could have resulted in a meaning being ascribed to it that it might not otherwise have.


However, the judge said, there was an imperative on CLRG to advance the disciplinary process with a degree of haste from this point onwards. Their failure to do so may give rise to real prejudice at a future point which Ms Hennigan would be entitled to complain of.

She said the application to stop the disciplinary process was premature at this point, and she refused the application to stop it. She directed that the disciplinary hearing should progress as soon as possible.

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