Golf club's sex bias leaves the 19th hole dry

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The Independent Online

An exclusive Dublin golf club has temporarily lost its licence to sell alcohol for refusing to accept female members.

An exclusive Dublin golf club has temporarily lost its licence to sell alcohol for refusing to accept female members.

The seven-day suspension at Portmarnock Golf Club, north Dublin, will start when legal proceedings being taken by the club are completed. Niall Crowley, chief executive of the Equality Authority, said the ruling sent out a clear message that banning women members was unacceptable.

"This is the first time under the Equal Status Act that sanctions have been applied," he said. "It gives Portmarnock the opportunity to change its policy and practice regarding women and will hopefully act as a warning that such rules cannot be tolerated."

The Dublin District Court ruled in February that the club was in breach of Ireland's Equal Status Act by banning female members, but in the High Court Portmarnock has claimed that the legislation involved runs counter to Ireland's constitution.

The government-appointed Equality Authority initiated action against the club last November, claiming its men-only policy was discriminatory because of the four-year-old Equal Status Act.

The club has maintained that as a private organisation it is entitled to decide its own membership policy. It also argued that the Act did not prohibit its membership policy and only referred to discrimination against people who were already members.

Under current rules, women are allowed play at Portmarnock but cannot hold full membership and are restricted to using the course at specified times.

A Portmarnock spokesman said the club would not comment on the suspension pending the outcome of High Court proceedings.

A Progressive Democrat representative, Fiona O'Malley, welcomed the sanction, saying men-only clubs were "completely out of step with modern Irish society and should be confined to the bunker". She added: "Thankfully Portmarnock is one of only a handful of dinosaur-like institutions left."

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