High Court: Irish dancing teacher fails to halt disciplinary process into competition fixing but has suspension lifted

High Court: Irish dancing teacher fails to halt disciplinary process into competition fixing but has suspension lifted

The High Court has refused an application for an interlocutory injunction restraining An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) from pursuing disciplinary proceedings against an Irish dancing teacher. The plaintiff had been implicated as one of dozens of instructors involved in fixing dancing competitions by sending texts to judges.

Delivering judgment in the case, Ms Justice Eileen Roberts held that the disciplinary process had not gone irredeemably wrong despite some valid complaints by the teacher. While the CLRG had introduced new rules specifically for the disciplinary process, there was no evidence that the new procedures would disadvantage the plaintiff, the court said.

However, the court granted the plaintiff’s application to lift a suspension against adjudicating further dancing competitions. It was held that the plaintiff had a strong case that she had not been afforded fair procedures in relation to the suspension, particularly as the suspension was open-ended and that there had been no finding of gross misconduct against the plaintiff yet.


The plaintiff was an Irish dancing teacher and adjudicator of competitions who operated a dance school in Herfordshire, England. CLRG is the governing body for Irish dancing at a national and international level. In order to teach or adjudication at any CLRG event, a person must be accredited by the CLRG.

The plaintiff had a contractual relationship with CLRG which was governed by the CLRG Code of Conduct, Rules for Teachers and Adjudicators and Discipline Procedures documents.

In July 2022, CLRG’s Investigation Committee (An Coist Faire; ACF) received a complaint regarding alleged competition fixing in CLRG events. The complaint included screenshots of text messages between 12 named individuals and an adjudicator for the 2019 All Ireland Championships. The people were accused of corruption by canvassing for good scores for their pupils.

Ultimately, 44 people were accused of corruption, including the plaintiff. The evidence against the plaintiff consisted of a single screenshot of texts to an adjudicator. The texts included comments such as “but would really appreciate a hand with my good u18 please” and “Hi love… hope you are ok and enjoying it a little bit! I’m thinking of you xx. I have Erin tmrw u18 no 288…She was 2nd at NANs and 3rd at British Nats and our Oireachtas Champion as well… appreciate anything you can do… Thank you x.”

On 4 October 2022, ACF sent copies of the complaints to Mr Justice Michael Peart (retired) and asked him to produce a report. On 10 October 2022, the plaintiff was advised that CLRG had received a complaint against her and would commence an investigation. Copies of the screenshots were not attached.

On 11 October 2022, Mr Justice Peart delivered his report. He concluded that sufficient prima facie evidence had been provided to support a complaint that “if prove at a full hearing to be true, these allegations are of the utmost seriousness”.

The next day, the CLRG wrote to the plaintiff and it was made clear that the plaintiff was suspended from officiating or acting in an official capacity at any CLRG event until disciplinary procedures had concluded. Although the plaintiff was originally told that the hearing would take place in late January, no date had been set for the hearing.

The plaintiff issued proceedings in December 2022 and brought applications seeking interlocutory injunctions restraining her suspension from adjudicating and seeking to halt the disciplinary process.

The CLRG Code of Conduct emphasised the necessity for honesty and integrity for all CLRG members. The Discipline Procedures document was only adopted in January 2021, two years after the allegations of wrongdoing. The document outlined the steps for the investigation of a disciplinary matter involving “gross misconduct”, which included allowing an individual to make submissions before any punitive or non-punitive action was taken.

High Court

It was agreed between the parties that the plaintiff was seeking mandatory relief, which required her to establish a strong case likely to succeed at trial in relation to both the suspension and the disciplinary proceedings against her. The court noted that the plaintiff was entitled to fair procedures in the disciplinary process (see Glover v BLN Ltd [1973] IR 388).

The court also outlined that natural justice and fair procedures were required where a suspension amounted to disciplinary action (Deegan v Minister for Finance [1998] IEHC 68). Further, the passage of time may invalidate a suspension, particularly a suspension involved potential reputational and financial damage (Flynn v An Post [1987] IR 68; O’Sullivan v HSE [2022] IECA 74).

Considering the suspension, the court held that the plaintiff had a strong case that she was not afforded fair procedures by the CLRG. First, there was no clear evidence that any person (including Mr Justice Peart) had made a finding of gross misconduct against the plaintiff, which would trigger suspension provisions under Clause 3.2.2. Mr Justice Peart had merely recommended an investigation into the matter, the court said.

Further, the plaintiff was informed of the complaint and subsequently suspended within two days. The clause used to suspend her was not in place at the time of the text exchange and no opportunity was given to her to explain the circumstances of the texts.

Considering the balance of convenience, the court held that the plaintiff would not be adequately compensated by an award of damages. Applying the O’Sullivan decision, the court held that there was ongoing prejudice to the plaintiff’s health, reputation and well-being. The court noted that the alleged misconduct related to a single incident. In the circumstances, the court held that it would lift the suspension imposed on the plaintiff by CLRG.

However, the court refused to restrain the disciplinary process. Intervention in an ongoing disciplinary process should only occur in clear cases where an unfairness had arisen that could not be cured (see Becker v St Dominic’s Secondary School [2006] IEHC 130; Rowland v An Post [2017] IESC 20). Decision makers had a significant margin of appreciation in disciplinary matters, the court held.

In this case, the court held that the process had not gone “irredeemably wrong.” While the court held that it was unwise for CLRG to issue public statements during the course of the investigation process, the plaintiff failed to establish a strong case that there had been pre-determination of her case based on the statements.

Other complaints, such as the leaking of the text exchanges, the delay in conducting the hearing and the introduction of new disciplinary procedures were rejected as reasons for halting the process. The complaints may be valid, but there were several countervailing factors, the court said.

These factors included that the plaintiff now had the complaint materials and there was no evidence of failure by CLRG relating to the leaking of the screenshots. Further, the plaintiff did not deny that the text exchange took place.

There was no evidence that the new disciplinary rules caused any disadvantage to the plaintiff, the court said. The plaintiff was not precluded from complaining about fair procedures or challenge decisions as the matter progressed, the court held.

In these circumstances, the court held that the application to halt the process was premature.


The court lifted the suspension imposed on the plaintiff until the determination of the disciplinary proceedings or the court proceedings. However, the court refused to halt the disciplinary proceedings. The court commented that it was necessary for CLRG to advance the disciplinary proceedings with haste.

Hennigan v. An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha [2023] IEHC 87

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