Bord Fáilte was criticised today for sponsoring a tournament at a golf club that refuses membership to women.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland said Bord Failte was wrong to sponsor next year’s Irish Open at Portmarnock Golf Club in Co Dublin.
NWCI chairwoman Grainne Healy said it had made a “major faux pas” in funding the event at the club next July.
“Women make up 50 per cent of the population,” she said. “I thought we were gone past the time when we would have to explain to a group who wish to promote their own interests not to do it in a way that actually excludes women.
“Really this is something that perhaps we would be sitting here talking about 20, 30 years ago and I would have to explain the reasons why this isn’t on. The fact is that we have moved on beyond that.”
Ms Healy asked how sports minister John O’Donoghue and Bord Failte could allow it to go ahead.
“We are asking: one, how could the minister let this go through, and two, that Bord Failte itself – which has, I believe, two women on its board and six men – that somebody around the table didn’t say listen, is that not one of the few clubs in Ireland that still doesn’t let women in? It is a major faux pas.”
In response to the criticism, Bord Failte said the choice and selection of the course was a matter for its organisers, the PGA European Tour.
“We are sponsoring the event but not funding the course,” a spokesman for Bord Failte said. “Bord Failte has been a sponsor of the event for many years, at many different courses.”
He added that the group was a long-term supporter of women’s golf and was the title sponsor of the Ladies’ Irish Open.
PGA European Tour said it would not be commenting on the matter.
A spokesman for Mr O’Donoghue said no public money was being made available to the venue itself, and said that Bord Failte would be working on promotional grounds only.
“The department doesn’t have any involvement in the selection of a venue,” he said.
Managers at Portmarnock Golf Club, which allows women to play but not to become members, issued a statement claiming no equality rules had been broken.
It said: “It is the understanding of Portmarnock Golf Club, and we have been so advised, that the rules of the club do not infringe the provisions of the Equal Status Act. On that basis we have no further comment to make.”
The Irish Open will be held at the club from July 24 to 27 next year.