Irish Golf Club Fined for No Women

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One of Ireland's top golf courses will lose its license to sell alcoholic beverages for a week after a judge ruled it discriminates against women, the first sanction of its kind to be imposed on a private club in the country.
 
District Court Judge Mary Collins said Tuesday the weeklong alcohol ban will go into effect only if Ireland's second-highest court, the High Court, upholds her judgment after hearing an appeal from Portmarnock Golf Club. The appeal is scheduled to be heard sometime this fall.
 
In February, Collins ruled in favor of the government's Equality Authority, which argued that the suburban Dublin club was breaching a 2000 anti-discrimination law by refusing to admit women as members.
 
She withheld specifying punishment until Tuesday, when she noted that the club could lose its liquor license repeatedly if it did not comply.
 
The 2000 Equal Status Act permits private clubs to restrict membership only if the club promotes an activity specific to a particular group. Collins ruled that golf is played equally by men and women.
 
Equality Authority chief executive Niall Crowley said the punishment '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.'
 
Portmarnock club manager Bruce Mitchell declined to comment. He previously has argued that the club doesn't discriminate because it permits women and other nonmember visitors to play at specific times during the week. He said members had overwhelmingly opposed giving membership rights to women during three debates on the subject since 2000.
 
The National Women's Council of Ireland - inspired by similar protests against the Augusta National Golf Club in the United States - filed a discrimination complaint with the Equality Authority in 2002. It has argued that the club's policy means female golfers have no voting rights at the club and aren't allowed to play at the best tee times.
 
The wind-swept course, founded in 1894, is considered one of Ireland's most challenging links courses. Last year, it hosted the Irish Open, a PGA European Tour event, for the 13th time.
 
Under current membership rules, its only permitted female member is President Mary McAleese, the largely symbolic head of government.
 
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