Facing an uncertain future, Irish dance teachers within An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG, the oldest and largest competitive Irish dance organization in the world) have come together in recent days on their own accord to discuss ways to improve and fix the organization.

Deirdre O’Mara, a native of Dublin who now teaches Irish dance at her school Scoil Rince Saoirse in New York, took to social media a week ago asking if fellow teachers wanted to get on Zoom to discuss the serious problems facing CLRG.

She said she was expecting about 10 or 20 teachers wanting to participate. Instead, hundreds signaled their interest. 

With little lead time, she organized two Zoom meetings this week where Irish dance teachers near and far came together for roughly five hours of discussions.

She also launched an online survey where anyone can offer their suggestions; it too has received hundreds of responses so far.

“It’s been a hell of week,” O’Mara told IrishCentral on Thursday afternoon.

O’Mara says she was spurred to action on the basis of two main concerns - CLRG’s dire financial situation stemming from what she says is a "host of factors," and its announcement last week that it is no longer in the position to pursue further disciplinary action against those involved in the so-called 'feis-fixing' scandal that came to light in October 2022.

Teachers were only officially informed about both matters in recent weeks. Last week, teachers were notified that an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) will be hosted on June 14. 

While a number of motions are set to be voted on during the EGM, the fate of the organization essentially hangs on the passing of two motions - one that calls for an increase in fees for Worlds competitors, and another that calls for an increase in membership fees for teachers and adjudicators.

"There was absolute outcry over those two motions," O'Mara said.

If the fee increases are not approved, CLRG, a registered charity in Ireland, will likely have to declare bankruptcy as soon as the day after the EGM.

O'Mara, who has been an Irish dancer within CLRG since she was three years old, was gobsmacked by the situation.

"The combination of being told that we were absolutely and utterly bankrupt and that we were no longer pursuing investigations after 18 months of being promised that they would clean this up was just a bridge too far for a lot of us," O'Mara told IrishCentral.

“I do not want CLRG to fail, I absolutely believe it can be saved,” she said.

“I believe there are so many good people who are willing to donate their time, myself included, their energy, and their skills to save CLRG.

"CLRG just has to get out of CLRG’s own way and let us help.

"And in return, if we are going to give this money in these two motions, we have to be given something."

O'Mara said that based on the discussions in the two meetings she organized this week, she and other teachers feel they are being "blackmailed" and are "getting transparency now in the eleventh hour because they want our money."

Perhaps shockingly, O'Mara explains that she's willing to give the money.

"I can see with the pandemic, and the cheating scandal, and all the complications, I'm even willing to still, after everything, to stay in it with them," she said.

"But they have to give us something in return for that."

O'Mara went on to say that teachers "never have a voice," especially the "kind of voice that we had in the meetings I had this week where we can talk back and forth."

However, she also admitted that she feels the organization as a whole has not taken a "collective responsibility for the corruption and the environment that we put our children into."

Notably, O'Mara has emerged as one of the first teachers to go on the record with IrishCentral regarding the problems facing CLRG. In the past, many teachers have spoken to IrishCentral but only on the condition of anonymity, largely due to fear of 'retribution.'

"I don't care anymore," O'Mara said. "I would not speak on the record before, I'm speaking on the record now. I now just think that after everything I have done, my hard work, my sacrifices, my building my business, my students - my whole life is dancing, dance, and my students. 

"And for them [CLRG] to have such disregard is unacceptable. They cannot ignore the teachers.

"I wanted to give the teachers a voice - I didn't realize how many of them needed it, I know I needed it."

O'Mara's passion for Irish dance - particularly her students, most of whom are children and teens - is evident. She is adamant that she wants Irish dancing to be a "safe, clean sport for children," but also says she still wants competition "for my highest level students to strive for."

Deirdre O'Mara and some her World qualifying students. (Monica Patten / Courtesy Deirdre O'Mara)

Deirdre O'Mara and some her World qualifying students. (Monica Patten / Courtesy Deirdre O'Mara)

O'Mara said she has received overwhelmingly positive feedback during and about her meetings, which she finds encouraging. Along with the survey responses, she is planning to compile all of the information into a presentation that she will share publicly. 

"It's hopeful that so many people are interested in stepping up and helping the organization - with the condition that we do it better going forward."

Time, however, seems to be running out.