Moira Flahive becomes lone female voice on 40-person Leinster executive

She also joins 10-man management committee chaired by Leinster branch president

Leinster rugby have began their long awaited plan to move towards gender equality. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Leinster rugby have began their long awaited plan to move towards gender equality. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Barrister and former international hockey umpire Moira Flahive has been added to the Leinster branch executive and management committees.

This begins Leinster rugby’s long awaited plan to move towards gender equality. Their new “strategy” starts with the formation of an “inclusivity committee,” tasked with “significantly enhancing the participation of women in the playing, coaching, management, administration and governance of rugby in the province” by 2024.

Tuesday night’s statement was immediately met by critical reaction from leading female clubs Railway Union and Old Belvedere.

“Leinster rugby still keeps their ban on women being senior players and refuses equal representation for women’s rugby,” tweeted Railway Union. “We will respond in detail to tonight’s carefully spun press release in the coming days. But be sure of this - this club will never give up the fight for equality.”

Railway Union have sought inclusion onto the Leinster executive for over two years, but they have been repeatedly rejected under Bye-Law 7, which only allows male All-Ireland League clubs to send representatives.

One of the principal findings of an “independent working group” led by World Rugby’s David Carrigy, who is also junior vice president of UCD rugby club, was that “Bye-Law 7 which defines a senior club within the Leinster branch is deemed appropriate.

“There is disappointment and frustration that this review has fallen well short of the mark,” said Shirley Corcoran, Railway’s first female president. “I contacted David Carrigy last year with the offer to bring him through our challenges and issues but he refused to meet, saying we would have our opportunity to make an input when the questionnaire came out.”

The Irish Times understand that only 18 of a possible 213 Leinster stakeholders responded to the questionnaire.

“We don’t agree with how the findings are being communicated,” Corcoran continued. “Our response was skewed by stating Bye-Law 7 is ‘appropriate.’ We have always stated that the interpretation is fundamentally flawed. Not the Bye Law itself which is black and white: what’s a senior club?

“There is an inequality issue so long as Leinster deems you can only become a senior club based on where your men’s team sits in the All-Ireland League.”

Carrigy’s group - which included Flahive and Paralympics Ireland chairman John Fulham - did state that the “current female representation in Leinster Rugby governance is insufficient and that pro-active steps are needed to foster greater women’s participation at all levels of the game.”

Flahive, as chairman of the new inclusivity committee, becomes the lone female voice on the 40-person Leinster executive. She also joins the 10-man management committee chaired by branch president Lorcan Balfe.

“It’s good they are introducing an inclusivity committee but maybe, regardless of gender, the whole governance structure is outdated,” said Ailis Egan, the Grand Slam winning Ireland prop who currently coaches Old Belvedere. “Maybe the membership of the executive needs to be looked at, maybe AIL status isn’t representative of the game as a whole anymore.

“Maybe there can be a greater representation of the grassroots game, for junior and women’s rugby because these [executive and management] committees seem like very hard places to get to. You have to be on other committees for years and years. For women in the game who played or coached who now want to volunteer they are looking at a very long road.”

Last year the World Rugby Council created an extra seat for every country on the premise the new representative was female (The IRFU duly added Su Carty).

“If Leinster really want that inclusivity and greater representation for women I think they are going to have to fast track in the same way World Rugby just put them in there,” Egan added.

Over two years since IRFU CEO Philip Browne told the joint committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport that it is “difficult to find suitably qualified female candidates with the accumulated rugby wisdom and skill sets” to meet a proposed quota system on governance, Corcoran believes little has changed in terms of the attitude towards women in Irish rugby.

“There are plenty of women who could govern if only they were given the opportunity,” she said. “The fact we have to fight this hard for equality speaks for itself.”

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