A former Irish dancing world champion has said she is not surprised to hear allegations of cheating and fixing, saying competitions had become "very political".
Layla Healy said that although the allegations are difficult to prove, the fact that more people are coming out will help to shine a light on the practices. “I’m not shocked, I am aware of it carrying on throughout the years,” she said.
Ms Healy said that judges and teachers would mingle socially, which leads to favours being passed along. “'Favours is a big, big word that’s thrown around the place in the Irish dancing world,” she said, referring to teachers acting as judges where there is a conflict of interest.
She said that many dancers, including herself, have made social sacrifices for competitions.
“It’s so disheartening to see someone that has that goal, they’re literally shattered when they realise that it’s not possible because these things are going on,” she told RTÉ's Liveline.
Ms Healy believes that upcoming competitions should be postponed until an investigation is finished to ensure dancers get the outcome they deserve. It comes amid allegations of cheating and competition fixing, with screenshots of text messages showing up to 18 dance teachers involved in competition fixing.
An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG), the global body that governs Irish dancing, said they received allegations in July along with supporting documentation of several “grievous breaches” of their Code of Conduct. “Such unethical behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated by this organisation,” their statement read.
Reportedly, screenshots of several text messages, which were shared with CLRG, show 12 dance teachers asking others to fix competitions. Other messages show teachers offering to fix competitions.
One exchange shows a dance teacher and a competition judge offering sexual favours in return for higher scores, according to the. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the allegations are “very worrying” and warrant a proper 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.
A spokesperson for Arts Minister, Catherine Martin, said she is aware of the allegations and is concerned that children and young people are being treated unfairly.
The spokesperson said: “Minister Martin intends to write to the organisation in question to seek assurances that they are taking the necessary steps to restore confidence for the very many families around Ireland and further afield that have a love for Irish dancing and that fairness is at the heart of all of their competitions.”
Due to the “potential extent” of the allegations, an immediate investigation has been launched with the services of an independent former judge of the Court of Appeal to oversee the process, according to CLRG. The former judge will have full and open access to the resources and records of CLRG.
“The process will no doubt be difficult and arduous, but this grossly unethical behaviour must be eliminated from our competitions, dance schools and governing organisations,” the statement read. CLRG said no further comments will be made until the investigation is complete.