The Supreme Court has ruled that Portmarnock Golf Club can continue to exclude women as full members because it is exempted under equal status legislation.

The court, by a majority of three to two, upheld a decision by the High Court four years ago and dismissed an appeal by the Equality Authority.

This ruling centred on how a section of the Equal Status Act should be interpreted.

Women can play golf at the north Dublin course but cannot become full members.

In 2005, the High Court overturned a District Court decision and ruled that Portmarnock was not a discriminating club because its principal purpose was to cater only for the needs of a particular gender, an exemption allowed under the legislation.

The Supreme Court upheld that ruling this morning.

Portmarnock can now continue to be a registered club - meaning it can continue to sell alcohol - without changing its membership policy.

A spokesman for the Equality Authority said the authority welcomed the fact that the Supreme Court had now clarified the law. He said the Oireachtas could now examine whether or not the Equal Status Act needed to be amended.

Joanna McMinn of the Equality Rights Alliance said the law needed to be changed and the decision was a bad day for equality and a bad day for women.

John Quigley, General Manager of Portmarnock Golf Club, said the club was pleased with the court's decision.