The competitive Irish Dancing community has been thrown into turmoil amid allegations of “grossly unethical behaviour” by an internal “mafia”.
It comes as Glasgow hosts one of the dance genre’s major international events – the All Scotland Championships.
The competition sees dancers from across the world, including Ireland, the USA and New Zealand, come to compete for top places.
“It’s a real shame,” a dance teacher told STV News, “This scandal has been there, it just needed brought into the light to clean it up.
“These dancers have been practising, working so hard. 99% of the people involved are good, honest, and fair.
“This small group of bad apples have been unveiled in this scandal.”
The allegations effect the An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), commonly referred to as simply Coimisiún, the oldest and largest governing body for competitive Irish Dancing globally.
Just as the 38th championships were due to begin at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the CLRG released a statement.
“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”An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha
It said the body’s ethics committee had received allegations of several grievous Code of Conduct breaches in July.
An email issued to members of Coimisiún last week, seen by STV News, provided more detail.
“The evidence apparently dates back several years and identifies individuals allegedly offering various inducements to promote dancers to a higher than deserved placing at particular competitions,” it said.
“It is believed that there are a number of teachers and schools implicated in the allegations.”
Sources within the organisation’s membership have revealed to STV News the accusations relate to the alleged exchange of sexual favours.
The governing body pledged not to tolerate “such unethical behaviour” as it announced an independent former judge of the Court of Appeal would be appointed to oversee an immediate investigation.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
A source in the Irish Dance community described what had been happening as the result of a “mafia” within the organisation including adjudicators – who judge dancers in major competitions.
There have been dancing events every weekend since the busy season began in August with the Championships in Glasgow the first major competition since allegations emerged.
“The CLRG knew about these allegations in July and they have not acted on this quick enough,” the source told STV News.
“Some of the people involved in this have continued to adjudicate, that is something teachers and parents are sad about.”
The Coimisiún said it regards the breaches as gross misconduct.
“Any registered member found to be engaged in such practices will be subject to due and full process under our published disciplinary procedures,” the organisation said.
“This process has already started and the principles of natural justice apply. To ensure the integrity of the process and until it is complete, no further comments will be made.”