Irish dancing: Claims of competition fixes, sexual favours detailed in court challenge

Text messages show offer of sexual acts in one exchange between two male teachers

New records filed in the High Court this week reveal exchanges of text messages showing efforts by Irish dancing instructors to secure high scores for their students from fellow teachers, including the offer of sexual acts in one exchange between two male teachers.

The text messages are short but it is clear what the people are asking for. The sender is seeking the recipient’s help when it comes to marking their students in competitions.

Many of the messages contain lists of names of dancers and their competition numbers along with the gender and age category they are competing in. Some include more details, such as that a particular dancer had been dancing well or that they may have a high ranking in the world or won a major competition in recent times.

The messages are clear, along the lines of “could I ask you to look out for” and “I will sort her out” to “just do the best you can for them” and “have a girl u15 that needs to qualify”.


“The very best you can do for her – it’s a huge competition,” reads one text message.

“If she’s good, I will be doing best for her before the rest but won’t forget about yours,” reads another.

Some messages go further. In detailed exchanges between two male teachers who also act as judges, the conversations are sexually explicit, with one of the teachers appearing to offer sexual favours for higher scores.

“Will you be nice to her and if you are on with her make sure she’s okay. Please. I’ll s**k your d**k at the world [championships] as a thank you,” said the teacher.

In other exchanges, the two men talk about what hotel room numbers they are in with, on one occasion, one man asking the other to come to their room soon. There appears to be discussion about being ready for a sexual act.

“No visit no 100s,” he wrote, adding laughing emojis to the text and referring to the maximum score a dancer can get from a judge in a competition.

“Well the better you are to me the more you get [kisses emojis],” said one man to the other in another exchange of texts messages concerning scores in a competition.

The messages, which were submitted to a High Court judge this week as part of a new legal action, are at the centre of a scandal that has rocked the Irish dancing world.

Last July, the Irish Dancing Commission, or An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), the oldest and largest governing body for competitive Irish dancing, was informed of allegations that at least 12 Irish dancing teachers in Ireland and overseas were involved in the “fixing” of competitions by promising to award higher marks to competitors at Irish dancing events run by the commission in Ireland, the UK and the United States.

Supporting documentation provided to support the allegations was later leaked online.

In August, given the seriousness and nature of the allegations, the CLRG sought legal advice and, the following month, it asked retired Court of Appeal judge Michael Peart to investigate.

Earlier this month, the commission told teachers that the retired judge had recommended that 44 individuals face full disciplinary hearings. The commission said that all 44 individuals were being suspended from judging pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Amanda (Mandy) Hennigan, who runs an Irish dancing school in Hertfordshire, north of London, and is an adjudicator for CLRG, went to the High Court in Dublin with a case aimed at stopping the commission’s disciplinary hearing against her. She is one of the suspended 44 individuals and the first to take legal action against the commission over the controversy.

Amanda Hennigan argued that the dissemination of the material on the internet was in clear breach of the CLRG’s code of conduct and disciplinary procedures

Gerard Meehan SC, counsel for Ms Hennigan, instructed by Cork solicitor Niall Colgan, told Mr Justice Brian O’Moore that the investigation into the allegations against her was flawed and should be halted because it damages her right to fair procedures.

She is challenging the investigation and disciplinary process on grounds including that the complaint against her centres on screenshots of text messages and that the CLRG should have considered the motivation of the party who made the original complaint, the source of the supporting documentation and the manner in which it was obtained.

Ms Hennigan also argued that the dissemination of the material on the internet was in clear breach of the CLRG’s code of conduct and disciplinary procedures and that if the CLRG had investigated the allegations against her quickly when it received them in July the documentation might never have been uploaded on to the internet.

She claimed the material published online was highly defamatory of her and questioned how the CLRG could accept the material as bona-fide evidence of allegations of gross misconduct against her.

“The CLRG appears to have prejudged the outcome of the investigation before it has even begun,” she said in an ex-parte application to the judge where only her side was represented.

In the legal papers submitted by her side in court, there is just one page with five text messages in all, sent by Ms Hennigan to an unnamed recipient.

In one message, she tells the individual that she “would really appreciate a hand with my good u18 please”.

In another message, she mentions an under-18 competitor, asking: “Appreciate anything you can do.”

In her affidavit, Ms Hennigan named the unidentified recipient of her texts as Kevin Broesler, a teacher and adjudicator based in the US and a professional and personal acquaintance of hers for 25 years. She told the court that Mr Broesler had recently been working as a teacher in a dance school run by teacher Meagan McGough in New York and Pennsylvania.

The records filed in court purport to show Ms McGough as being the original complainant about competition fixing to the CLRG in July and the supplier of the text messages.

Ms Hennigan told the court that her text exchange with Mr Broesler took place in February 2019 when he was adjudicating in the All-Ireland Championships.

She said Mr Broesler had asked her to identify any of the dancers from her school in the competition and their competition numbers. He told her that he would “look out for them”.

“The fact that I pointed out the identity of one dancer from my school did not in any way affect the marks that said student received. In fact, my dancer was not given a high mark by Mr Broesler,” said Ms Hennigan.

She told the court Mr Broesler effectively resigned his membership from the CLRG in December 2019, nine months after their text exchange, after civil proceedings had been taken against him in the US. He was suspended from all CLRG teaching and adjudicating.

In her affidavit, she claims she was “specifically targeted” by Mr Broesler over a family connection.

Ms Hennigan said her father, Sean Hennigan, is the former discipline procedures co-ordinator of the CLRG and was involved in the disciplinary action taken against Mr Broesler.

She told the court her suspension from teaching or adjudicating at CLRG-registered events would cause irreparable damage to her livelihood and reputation and that the allegations had damaged her health and her relationships with family members involved in her school.

Mr Justice O’Moore gave her permission to serve notice of her injunction proceedings on the CLRG. Her case will come before the court again in January.

While Ms Hennigan’s is the first court challenge against the CLRG over this controversy, others among the 44 individuals facing disciplinary proceedings – along with the rest of the worldwide Irish dancing community – are watching the outcome of her case with interest.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times