Sunday 24 September 2017

Figure skater (19) ordered to pay costs of legal action aimed at compelling governing body to select her for events

Ice skater Fianait Bligh. Inset Fianait competing
Ice skater Fianait Bligh. Inset Fianait competing

Tim Healy

A figure skater must pay the legal costs of her failed legal action aimed at compelling the sport's national governing body select her for participation in international events.

In July 2015, Fianait Bligh (19) sought High Court orders compelling the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) comply with representations allegedly made to her stating, if she fulfilled certain criteria, she would be selected to take part in International Skating Union events.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan dismissed her application and ruled Ms Bligh had failed to make out a case entitling her to the orders sought.

Ms Bligh, originally from Dublin but who has been training in Scotland and Canada, had claimed she was being discriminated against.

The ISAI denied her claims.  It said while Ms Bligh had been picked for the Irish development squad, that did not mean she was entitled to orders requiring she be selected for the national team.

The matter returned before the judge Tuesday (Nov 15) when David Dodd Bl, for the ISAI, said it was seeking an order for its legal costs against her.

Counsel said following the court's ruling Ms Bligh's case had been heard by Just Sport Ireland (JSI), an independent dispute resolution service for Irish sport.

The arbitrator who heard the matter had rejected all of Ms Bligh's allegations against members of ISAI, counsel said.

Counsel said the offer to go to the JSI was made to Ms Bligh before the case was heard by the High Court. However she had opted to go ahead with the injunction application which was refused.

In all the circumstances counsel said the association was entitled to its costs.

Opposing the application, Colm Ó hOisin SC, for Ms Bligh, argued no order should be made in relation to the costs of the court proceedings.

Counsel said Ms Bligh was no longer continuing her action against the ISAI.

He also asked the court to take into account his client's young age and she was a dedicated athlete.

She also had a concern  that if a costs order was made against her, and she was unable to pay, she would not be in good standing with the ISAI.

If she was not in good standing she feared she would not be selected by to represent Ireland.

When asked by the judge if this would be the case, Mr Dodd said that any inability to pay a costs order would not result in the ISAI refusing to select Ms Bligh. She would be selected to represent Ireland on merit, the court was told.

Mr Justice Gilligan ruled he had "no alternative", given the circumstances of the matter, but to award the costs of the application for the injunction in favour of the ISAI.

The Judge said there had to be "obvious sympathy" for Ms Bligh given her age. 

However she made the decision, with the advice of lawyers, to go ahead with the court case and she had to have known to her she might not be successful and a costs order could be made against her.

The Judge also urged the parties to move forward and "get on with the sport."

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