CLRG, the world's oldest and largest competitive Irish dancing organization, has appointed a new Child Protection Officer

The competitive Irish dancing organization An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) has issued an updated Child Protection Policy.

Read More: Fourth lawsuit alleging sexual abuse within CLRG Irish dance organization filed in New Jersey

The update was shared with CLRG members in an email from CLRG's press office on February 26. A recipient later shared it with IrishCentral.

The email said that CLRG’s Child Protection Policy Document had been “newly reviewed and updated” and shared a link to the updated information. The email asked members to pay particular attention to pages 5 and 6 of the 48-page document.

On page five, CLRG outlines its policy statement: “An Coimisiún recognises that the safety and welfare of children and young people is of paramount importance and is committed to taking every appropriate step to ensure the safety and well-being of the children and young people with whom we engage, regardless of class, gender, race, creed, age or ability. 

“An Coimisiún has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy with regard to abuse, intimidation, bullying (physical or emotional), racism and sexist behaviour directed towards children and young people. 

“An Coimisiún acknowledges the right of children and young people to be treated with respect at all times, to be listened to and to have their views taken into consideration in matters that affect them. 

“Teachers, Adjudicators, Members, Volunteers and Employees with An Coimisiún recognise that the welfare of children is paramount and we will endeavour to safeguard children by: 

  • Having a reporting procedure to respond to concerns around children’s welfare and safety 
  • Having a confidentiality statement 
  • Having a code of behaviour for Teachers, Adjudicators, Members, Volunteers and Employees
  • Having a safe recruitment procedure 
  • Having a procedure to respond to accidents 
  • Having a process to respond to complaints 
  • Developing a staff allegations procedure 
  • Developing a disciplinary procedure In order to safeguard children and young people 

"An Coimisiún will: 

  • Appoint a Child Protection Officer for the organisation to oversee this policy in all areas in which An Coimisiúin operate. 
  • Appoint regional Designated Liaison Persons 
  • Arrange for the provision of training on the child protection policy 
  • Ensure that Designated Liaison Persons attend appropriate child protection training 
  • Share information about the child protection policy and good practices with all relevant persons. 
  • Review the group’s child protection policy and practices every two years."

Read More: Irish dance teachers allegedly sexually abused minors, claim two New Jersey lawsuits

Page six provides the scope of the newly-reviewed and updated policy: “All Teachers, Adjudicators, Members, Employees and Volunteers registered with or employed by An Coimisiún must be aware of this policy and it is their duty to oversee its implementation. 

“This policy statement should be publicly displayed at all classes and events which are run by Teachers or other persons registered or employed by An Coimisiún. 

“Classes and other events run by Teachers, Adjudicators and other persons involved with An Coimisiún are the responsibility of those who are organising these events. 

“While this policy and best practice should equally apply to all such events, An Coimisiún can only oversee and manage events which we organise and run.

“All children and young people should enjoy classes taught by Teachers registered with An Coimisiún and competitions registered with or organised by An Coimisiún and all their relevant facilities and activities in an environment free of physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.” 

“This policy has been reviewed and updated in February 2020 Chairperson of An Coimisiún: Francis Curley Child Protection Officer: Collette McAllister.

“This policy will be reviewed at least every two years, and more frequently if required in response to changes in legislation, regulations or other relevant matters. Updates will be provided to the AGM of An Coimisiún. The review will be carried out by the Child Protection Officer and two people nominated from the main body of An Coimisiún.”

A footnote on page six reads: “This policy has been developed in compliance with Irish legislation and to reflect Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2017). Where activities or events are undertaken in other jurisdictions, local policies should reflect relevant legislation or guidance.”

The email sent to CLRG members goes on to provide a link to the 72-page “Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children” document, which was published by Tusla, Ireland’s Child and Family Agency, in 2017.

The Child Protection page on CLRG's website provides contact information for DLPs (Designated Liasion Persons) in Ireland, England, Scotland, and North America.

Read More: Sexual abuse lawsuits won't stop people from sending their children to Irish dancing

The update in CLRG’s Child Protection Policy comes after four lawsuits alleging sexual abuse within the Irish dancing organization were filed in Bergen County, New Jersey in recent months. Three of the lawsuits allege that minors were sexually abused by certified Irish dance teachers during practices or competitions.

While CLRG responded in an initial statement on December 7, it offered another statement a few days later which said the Dublin-based organization was "carrying out a comprehensive internal investigation."

The new Child Protection Policy has been shared just over a month before CLRG’s World Irish Dancing Championships, which this year are marking their 50th anniversary. Thousands of Irish dancers, aging from children through adults, and their families are set to descend upon Ireland’s capital city for a hallmark event at the Convention Center Dublin beginning April 5 for a week’s worth of both solo and ceili competitions. It is the most elite competition CLRG offers.

If you have any information about the sexual assault allegations within the competitive Irish dancing community, you are urged to reach out to your local authorities immediately. Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP are handling the four lawsuits that have already been filed in New Jersey.

If you have a story about issues within competitive Irish dancing that you want to be highlighted, email Sources can be kept anonymous where preferred.