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IRFU urged to pause new participation policy
Pic: Alex Motoc on Unsplash

15 Aug 2022 / sports law Print

IRFU urged to pause new participation policy

Legal-rights organisation Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) has expressed serious concerns about a policy on gender participation recently adopted by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

Last week the rugby body said that contact rugby for players in the female category would be limited to those whose sex was recorded as female at birth.

Acknowledging that this was “a sensitive and challenging area for those involved”, the IRFU said that the change was “based on medical and scientific evidence, and in line with World Rugby guidance”.

FLAC said, however, that the policy might lead to discrimination complaints under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018.


In a statement, the group stated that the policy also raised a number of concerns in relation to the human rights of trans participants in IRFU activities – including their rights to privacy, data protection, dignity and bodily autonomy.

Sinéad Lucey (FLAC Managing Solicitor) pointed out that, while the legislation on equal status allowed for different treatment, on the basis of gender, in the context of sporting events, this exception applied only where the treatment could be shown to be reasonably necessary in the context of a given event.

“The exception, therefore, does not appear to permit a blanket policy of this kind which, by its nature, excludes an event-specific decision in relation to the participation of a trans person,” she stated.

‘Consult IHREC’ call

FLAC, which is a member of Trans Equality Together, is backing that organisation’s call for the immediate suspension of the implementation of the policy, which is to apply for the forthcoming season.

Lucey called on the Government to take “all measures necessary” to ensure that organisations such as the IRFU complied with equality law.

“In this regard, we would note the power of the Minister for Equality to refer serious or systemic violations of equality or human-rights law to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commissions (IHREC), in order for that body to conduct an independent inquiry,” she added.

FLAC called on the IRFU to consult the trans community on its policy, and to seek the views of IHREC on how the change might be “equality-proofed” to better protect the rights of trans people.

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