An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), the oldest and largest competitive Irish dance organization in the world, has responded after being featured in the new BBC One documentary “The Year that Rocked Irish Dancing.”

The three-part series, which debuted on BBC One Northern Ireland on October 16 and is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer, follows Irish dancers competing at CLRG's World Irish Dancing Championships in April 2022, before switching gears to focus on the allegations of ‘feis fixing’ that emerged in October 2022.

“Addressing the historical allegations of wrongdoing at Irish dancing competitions discussed in BBC Northern Ireland’s documentary is a key priority for CLRG,” a spokesperson for the Irish dance organization told IrishCentral on Thursday after being asked for comment about the documentary.

“Over the last 12 months, we have taken a series of steps to create an external, independent disciplinary process administered by experienced professionals to conduct hearings for those individuals facing disciplinary. 

“November will be our third month of hearings, and this work will continue at pace for the future.

“Once the hearings are concluded, the outcomes will be communicated in line with CLRG's disciplinary procedures.” 

In October 2022, CLRG confirmed that it had launched an investigation after a complaint, seen by IrishCentral and circulated on social media, implicated at least 12 Irish dance teachers and or adjudicators in asking for certain placements and favors before Irish dance competitions even began. Some of the favors requested were sexual in nature. 

The cheating allegations came to light roughly three years after a separate scandal - lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, first reported here on IrishCentral - rocked the organization. 

The so-called 'feis-fixing' allegations emerged just before the new Irish dancing documentary was due to air. The documentary was, in turn, held back in order to address the allegations.

The final episode of "The Year that Rocked Irish Dancing" - to which I contributed - turns its focus from competition to the two major scandals that rocked the Irish dance world in recent years.

Featured in the final episode are siblings Owen Luebbers and Cassidy Luebbers, who discussed their reactions to seeing the leaked screenshots of their former Irish dance teacher seeking favors, unbeknownst to them, ahead of major competitions.

Owen tells the documentary that upon seeing the leaked texts, he wondered if he actually 'deserved' his World Championship title in 2017, while Cassidy had similar doubts about her high placements.

The Luebbers siblings parted ways with their former Irish dance teacher in 2018, before both the sexual abuse and cheating scandals came to light. The documentary states that this Irish dance teacher was last registered with CLRG in 2019 and that CLRG said the teacher's request to re-register in 2023 was declined.

The documentary proceeds to follow Owen, who now trains with an Irish dance school based in Dublin, as he seeks, in the filmmaker's words, a "true shot at his pure win" - as in, a win without favors - at the 2023 World Irish Dancing Championships.

Irish dancer Owen Luebbers.

Irish dancer Owen Luebbers.

The Luebbers' former Irish dance teacher was just one of the teachers and / or adjudicators implicated in the cheating scandal.

An independent investigation into the 'feis-fixing' complaints recommended to CLRG that 44 cases move to "full disciplinary hearings," which are now in progress.

CLRG, who has not released the names of those being investigated, told IrishCentral in September that it will not be providing "running commentary" on the progress of the disciplinary hearings.

In the final episode, director and producer Gillian Callan details how one of the Irish dance teachers she filmed with for the first two episodes was implicated in the leaked file of text messages seeking favors. 

This Irish dancer teacher, as well as the other Irish dance teachers featured in the first two episodes, declined to take part in the documentary any further after the feis-fixing scandal emerged, Callan explained. 

Towards the end of the final episode, Callan said she hoped change would be coming for Irish dancers, but a court document 'made her wonder if it ever would.'

"It proved that CLRG had been alerted to cheating more than a decade ago," Callan said of court documents she was shown which related to the 2012 British National Championships.

"I asked them [CLRG] what they did to investigate these allegations," Callan says in the episode. "They told me they have no oversight of this event. I pointed out that their own rule books show that this is not true."

Callan said she got in touch with the organizers of the British National Championships to see if CLRG had asked them to investigate the allegations. She said she did not receive a reply.

"We can find no evidence to suggest these allegations were ever looked into," Callan says.

While that revelation is shocking in and of itself, Callan concludes the documentary with a bombshell that even the most plugged-in in the Irish dance world would find shocking.

Curious about the allegations of sexual misconduct, Callan submitted a Freedom of Information request to the FBI in the US.

The FBI told Callan it has over 23,000 pages of information relating to her request and estimated that it would take 77 months to release the information.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the BBC fought off a legal attempt to block the Irish dancing documentary from airing.

“There was an unsuccessful attempt to injunct the BBC from publishing some material included in the series," a spokesperson for BBC told the Irish Independent on October 16.

"We opposed these applications because the series is clearly in the public interest – something the judge agreed with."