CLRG Irish Dancing ‘Feis Fixing’ Cheating Scandal Explained

An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) is the oldest and largest governing body for competitive Irish step dancing. The name translates to “The Irish Dancing Commission.” It was formed in 1927 and is headquarterd in Dublin, Ireland.

CLRG operates as the international governing body for Irish dancing. The organization is responsible for the World Irish Dancing Championships, the most prestigious Irish dancing competition.

In 2022 allegations of fixed Irish dancing competitions surfaced, and CLRG launched an investigation in response to the claims.

Irish Dancing
Irish Dancing

“Feis Fixing” Allegations Surface

The Irish Independent newspaper broke the story about allegations of cheating in an October 5 2022 story.

The paper reported that “screenshots of text conversations from WhatsApp and Facebook showing 12 Irish dance teachers either asking for, or offering to, fix competitions were handed over to the CLRG” in July of 2022. The Independent said that it had been given screenshots implicating at least another six dance teachers in the scandal.

In one instance, a dance teacher and a competitive judge reportedly offered to exchange sexual favors in exchange for higher scores at a dance competition.

Other screenshots instructed judges to pay special attention to a specific dancer in the competition – identifying them by their name, costume, or competitor number.

Some screenshots requested that competitors be awarded points or placement before the competition had taken place.

IrishCentral released the content of several of the text messages that were sent between judges and competitors.

CLRG Investigation Launched

CLRG released a statement on October 3 2022 stating that it had ” received allegations with supporting documentation of several grievous breaches of our Code of Conduct.”

Michael Peart – High Court Judge
Michael Peart – High Court Judge

The organization said the alleged unethical behavior “cannot and will not be tolerated” and that “it is believed that there are a number of teachers and schools implicated in the allegations.”

CLRG said that it had taken on an independent former judge to review processes and that the judge would have “full and open access” to its resources and records.

Michael Peart, a former High Court Judge, was selected to lead the inquiry.

Irish Culture Minister Catherine Martin
Irish Culture Minister Catherine Martin

Government Response

Irish Culture Minister Catherine Martin responded to news of the investigation, noting that the involvement of a retired judge was a “really important” factor.

Speaking to reporters, Martin said she would ask the commission for “assurances that they are taking every step necessary to restore confidence for families right across the world that their children, that their young people are being treated fairly.”

North American Teachers Response

The Irish Dance Teacher’s Association of North America (IDTANA) released a statement in October 2022 that said the “unethical behavior” that prompted the investigation “is a serious breach of the CLRG Code of Conduct and all allegations must be investigated to their fullest.”

IDTANA said that the allegations had undermined confidence in Irish dancing and that it had convened a meeting of regional directors to discuss “best practices” for competitions in the future.

Ronan McCormack Allegations

Ronan McCormack is a dance teacher and a former member of the Riverdance dance troupe. In an October 2022 interview with RTÉ, McCormack said he had witnessed cheating in Irish dancing.

McCormack also expressed skepticism about the CLRG investigation, noting, “Let’s be real here: this investigation is set up by the organization for the organization. It is certainly not what should be considered an independent investigation.”

Riverdance Response

Riverdance pulled their support for CLRG Irish dance events after the investigation was announced.

A spokesperson told the Irish Independent, “Riverdance has confirmed to me that they will not be considering placing any further ads with CLRG in the future until they know the outcome of the internal investigation.”

CLRG Report Released

Michael Peart, the former Ireland Court of Appeal judge brought on to conduct the investigation, handed it in to CLRG on October 12 2022.

The Irish Independent reported that all of the people named in Peart’s report had been informed, and that Irish dancing teachers and judges who had been accused of cheating would not be allowed to judge or officiate dance competitions until a disciplinary hearing was held.

The paper also reported that anyone accused of cheating who also held an elected role within CLRG would have to temporarily step down from their position until the hearings.

CLRG Senior Members Quit

Órfhlaith Ní Bhriain, vice chair of CLRG and Seán Hennigan, the organization’s vetting officer, stepped down after an October 1 2022 meeting.

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