Agency claims golf club is discriminating against women


The Equality Authority has argued before the High Court that Portmarnock Golf Club, in refusing to admit women as members, discriminates against them and is a discriminating club within the meaning of the Equal Status Act 2000.

The Co Dublin club discriminated against women, did not seek to deny that discrimination and sought to justify it, the authority contended. A purposive interpretation of the Equal Status Act could only support an interpretation that Portmarnock was a discriminating club.

The authority stated that the Act had set out to promote equality between men and women and to tackle discrimination. In some cases it prohibited it. In relation to registered clubs, it provided for the suspension of the certificate of registration.

A literal interpretation of the Act which gave words in section 8 and 9 of the Act their ordinary meaning resulted in the single and unavoidable conclusion that Portmarnock was a discriminating club for the purposes of the Act.

Portmarnock had to embark upon the most "artificial and unjustifiable evasions" of the literal meanings of the words in order to support the club's interpretation, it contended.

In submissions which were elaborated on by Frank Callanan SC, for the authority, it was stated that even if there was a need to depart from the literal meaning of the words used, it was clear that the purpose of the Act was to promote equality and prohibit discrimination.

The authority is opposing an application by the club for a declaration that it is not a discriminating club within the provisions of the Equal Status Act. The proceedings by the club against the Equal Status Act and the State were brought after the suspension last May of the club's drink licence for seven days.

This suspension was imposed by the District Court after that court held the club's rule excluding women was discriminatory but the suspension has been deferred pending the High Court's decision on legal and constitutional issues.

The club had sought to rely on the constitutional right to freedom of association but, the authority argued, section 6 of the Equal Status Act did not infringe the constitutional right of association.

The hearing continues.