As horrific details of three lawsuits and probably more victims come forward the governing bodies of Irish dance in America need to face up to reality and do better.
Editor’s Note: This piece, which appeared in the December 11 issue of IrishCentral’s sister publication The Irish Voice newspaper, was written before CLRG issued its second statement on December 11.
Three sexual assault claims against Irish dance teachers were filed in New Jersey courts last week, commencing civil actions against individual dance teachers and state and national Irish dance groups that run the massive Irish dance events.
The allegations were horrific in one case — a minor being plied with drink and then assaulted. In another, a male dancer abused in a hotel suite by a well-known leader in the industry.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office were among those who sat up and took notice of the IrishCentral story last week and asked any other victims to step forward.
Irish dance worldwide is a phenomenon with hundreds of thousands
taking part across the globe. It is also uniquely vulnerable to
situations where abuse can occur.
Dance teachers are often in loco parentis when parents cannot travel to an out of town venue with their children. Like we saw in U.S. women’s gymnastics, unscrupulous operators take advantage of such opportunities when the child is vulnerable.
You would not have thought there was much concern about what is quickly becoming an issue by the kind of statements issued by the main Irish dance authorities.
CLRG (An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha), the governing body of the oldest and largest competitive Irish dancing organization in the world, was named in all three sexual abuse lawsuits that were filed last week.
Two of the lawsuits that were filed allege sexual abuse against minors.
On December 7, CLRG issued a statement on its Facebook page and website which reads, “In response to recent media posts online, An Coimisiún confirms its commitment to the safety of every individual involved in Irish Dance.
“An Coimisiún maintains a strong child protection policy and requires registered teachers to be vetted/screened in accordance with local legislation.