Monday 26 August 2019

Railway Union cry foul in battle for women's senior status

"In layman's terms, it was to recognise that a woman could be a senior player and that women's rugby should have equal representation," a spokesperson for Railway Union told the Sunday Independent. Stock image

John Greene

Railway Union have accused Leinster Rugby of engaging in "underhanded tactics" after a motion seeking to have women recognised as senior players by the branch was roundly defeated at its annual general meeting last week.

Railway Union, which has a thriving women's section, has been campaigning to have men and women players recognised as equal for almost four years. The club is seeking to be recognised as a senior club by Leinster because it plays in the top flight of the Women's AIL, which it won this season.

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The motion to last Thursday night's agm called on Leinster Rugby to recognise the definition of a senior club in its bye-laws as one "participating in the AIL or in any competition which is the direct successor of the AIL", which includes both men and women. Leinster Rugby has traditionally interpreted that it refers to men only.

"In layman's terms, it was to recognise that a woman could be a senior player and that women's rugby should have equal representation," a spokesperson for Railway Union told the Sunday Independent. "It wasn't a Railway Union issue, it was an equality issue."

The spokesperson added: "They deliberately confused it with lots of things. It's not about gender balance, which is a different thing. This is about women's rugby, and that women's rugby doesn't have a voice because the whole governance structure is based on where a men's team plays. If you play in the men's AIL you're a senior club but if you play in the women's AIL you're not." Railway Union, who have more than 20 women international players, had originally brought a motion to last year's agm but agreed to withdraw it on request after Leinster promised an inclusivity review.

But the club says the issue wasn't dealt with as part of the review and so the motion was resubmitted this year. However, when it was put to the floor on Thursday, it was comprehensively shot down. The motion received the support of just ten clubs, including Railway Union.

But Railway Union claims that Leinster had used "underhanded tactics" ahead of the vote. In an email sent to Leinster Rugby before the agm, Railway Union said it had been advised by some clubs that they had been pressured to withdraw their support. "If the Leinster management committee wanted this it would have happened, but they didn't want it. They have basically campaigned against it for nearly four years."

Leinster Rugby, however, says that it is committed to the women's game and that the work of its inclusivity committee has been fully endorsed by its executive. A spokesperson said yesterday that the committee has "a mandate to work towards achieving a more inclusive game across the 12 counties".

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He added: "Moira Flahive has been appointed as Chair, one of Ireland's most respected barristers, and Leinster Rugby would invite any individual or club interested in the development of the women's game in Leinster, to engage with Moira and her committee and through the proper channels on any issue."

In a separate development, Debbie Carthy from Wexford will become Leinster's first female president in two years' time.

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