World of Irish dancing is rocked by sex scandal
The world of Irish dancing has been rocked by scandal amid allegations judges were coerced into fixing competitions – including with sexual favours.
Up to a dozen Irish dance teachers and judges stand accused of colluding to award podium finishes to certain pupils in the All-Ireland Championships and qualifying rounds after bombshell texts were leaked to the press.
In one exchange, a judge tells a teacher that ‘other forms of appreciation’ are accepted and the teacher responds by saying that if they can get a particular student to first place then they can have ‘anything you want ;)’
The judge also says: ‘Is it not time you came to my room?’
Deputy PM Leo Varadkar has now called for a full investigation as the allegations of competition rigging risked ‘reputational damage’ for Ireland.
Text messages between teachers whose pupils were competing in an Irish dancing championship and judges appear to show them fixing places in the contest – including in return for sexual favours
The highly-competitive world of Irish dancing sees schools across the world compete for prizes – with those given top awards able to charge more for places at their institutions (file image of Irish dancing contest)
An Irish dance teacher based in the east coast of America has passed on these messages and dozens more to Irish dancing governing body, An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG).
The whistleblower, who doesn’t want to be identified, said she wanted to lift the lid on what she believes in the fixing of competitions that makes it impossible for some dance schools to compete.
She told the Irish Daily Mail that she cannot comment while the investigation is continuing.
In all, the whistleblower has supplied screenshots of WhatsApp conversations showing 12 Irish dance teachers requesting a fix in major competitions.
The WhatsApp messages show that one teacher sent the name and competition number of her niece and asked the judge to give the girl a high score. She then mentions she has another niece also dancing.
‘How many effin’ nieces do you have?’ the judge asks, while agreeing to give them a good score.
The competition fixing is alleged to have occurred both in the Republic and Northern Ireland during All-Ireland Championships and qualifying rounds.
Texts such as this one appear to show teachers at Irish dance school colluding with judges to have favourable panels deciding on contests involving their pupils
Several teachers ask favourable judges to sit in on competitions in which their own children or pupils are dancing.
One judge is alleged to have sent messages to a dance teacher during an All-Ireland Championship.
A teacher at the competition asks the judge: ‘Are you on boys u12? If you are, he’s number [competition number of dancer]. Thank you x.’
The judge replies: ‘Yes, got it’.
The next day, the teacher has another request: ‘Hiya. Have a really good girl u14 no [competition number]. Could be podium. Have a girl u15 that needs to qualify no [competition number].’ This gets a ‘thumbs up’ symbol from the judge.
On the following day, the teacher has yet another request: ‘Have my babies dancing tomorrow u16. My son *****, [son’s competition number] would love a medal. **** is number [competition number] would love top 3.’
The judge replies: ‘I’m on solos.’
The teacher says: ‘Jaysus. I’m f***ed so with you and [another favourable judge] on solos.’
Another teacher sent photos of two of her pupils to a judge, so that the judge could identify them. ‘Girls u11 tomorrow. Don’t have [competition] numbers as I’m not going til the morn. [first name and surname] and [first name and surname] are the names’.
The judge replies with a winking emoticon.
Another teacher begs for a high score for his students and also for the judge to ensure that other favourable judges are appointed to the same competition.
After the judge gave a good mark to one of his students, the teacher writes: ‘Thanks for today. Do u know what you are on tomorrow? Begging if you are on [child’s name] to do what you can Xxx.’
The judge replies: ‘I know.’
The teacher then asks: ‘Are you on the 18s?’ When the judge confirms that they are, the teacher replies: ‘Thank god!!! Who else is with you? Is it bad?’
The judge asks: ‘Who do you want?’
The teacher then names four judges he doesn’t want.
The judge replies that the teacher won’t have the first judge on the list but he is not sure about the second.
Another judge tells a teacher that they ‘accept other forms of appreciation’, and in response is told: ‘If you can get [name redacted] to give [name redacted] First anything You want ;)’
The same judge also says: ‘Is it not time you came to my room?’
Leaked text messages have now been passed on from a whistleblower on the US East Coast to an investigation in Ireland, which has been ordered by deputy PM Leo Varadkar
Children are pictured competing in the World Irish Dancing Championships in Belfast in April this year, as the sport is rocked by allegations that judges and teachers colluded to fix the contest
The CLRG has said it takes the allegations very seriously and has appointed a former Court of Appeal judge to investigate what it calls ‘individuals allegedly offering various inducements to promote dancers to a higher than deserved placing at particular competitions’.
The commission has published a statement detailing the inquiry on its website. An Coimisiún said in a statement that ‘such unethical behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated by this organisation’.
The CLRG organises Ireland’s regional and national championships as well as the World Irish Dancing Championships, which in April drew 3,500 dancers to Belfast. There are qualifying competitions in the US, UK and Australia.
The Tanaiste said yesterday that the allegations are ‘very concerning, very worrying that anything like that would happen. And I do believe it needs to be properly investigated’.
‘It needs to be fully and thoroughly investigated so we can find out what the facts are and if people have been engaged in any wrongdoing, [they should be] held to account.’
He said he would have to discuss with fellow ministers to assess if the Government has a role to play in an investigation.
‘Potentially it could cause reputational harm but the solution is not to cover it up, it’s to deal with it and investigate it properly and hold people to account,’ he said.
His comments open up the possibility of a separate government-led investigation into competition rigging.
Arts Minister Catherine Martin has said that she will write to the CLRG to ‘seek assurances’ after the allegations of competition-fixing within the organisation emerged this week.
Ms Martin said that she welcomed a pending investigation into the allegations.
‘I welcome the fact that we have a retired judge investigating these matters, I think that’s very important,’ she said.
‘I will also be writing to the organisation involved, to seek assurances that they are taking every step necessary to restore confidence, for families right across the world, that their children, their young people are being treated fairly.’