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Women's group calls for Irish Open boycott

Controversy over major golf tournaments at male-only clubs spread to Ireland as a women's group demanded the government drop sponsorship of the Irish Open.

The National Women's Council of Ireland said use of 250,000 euros in government funds to promote the event next July at the Portmarnock Golf Club was an "insult" to women and called for a boycott.

"This championship is to be hosted in Portmarnock Golf Club, one of only two golf clubs in the state which still operates a ban on women members," said council director Joanna McMinn.

"It is an insult and an outrage that women continue to be banned from Portmarnock."

The protest echoes a similar controversy in the United States where there have been calls for a boycott of the U.S. Masters being held at the male-only Augusta National Golf Club.

"If the Irish Open goes ahead, we will be calling on investors, players, the public and the media to boycott the event," McMinn added.

The Portmarnock club north of Dublin is regarded as one of the country's finest. Women are allowed to play the course but may not join the club.

Sports and Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue defended the use of government funds to promote the event, expected to provide a shot in the arm for Ireland's sagging tourism industry.

He also said the choice of the club was made by the European Tour and not by the government.

"We're not putting money into the actual course itself, we're putting money into a very important event in the Irish sporting calendar which has the capacity to raise considerable foreign revenue for the country," O'Donoghue said.

Officials of the Portmarnock club could not be reached for comment, but a statement issued by the club said no equality rules were being violated.

"It is the understanding of Portmarnock Golf Club, and we have been so advised, that the rules of the club do not infringe the provisions of the Equal Status Act."

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