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Clifden dinner

'We'll let the DPP decide': Former Minister Dara Calleary not expecting personal charges from Golfgate

Calleary said he absolutely regrets and apologises for having attended the controversial dinner.

FORMER MINISTER FOR Agriculture Dara Calleary has said he does not expect any personal charges in relation to the Golfgate dinner last August. 

A file in relation to political controversy – where elected representatives, former politicians, and a judge were accused of breaching the Covid-19 restrictions at the time – was forwarded to the DPP last month by gardaí.  

The Mayo TD told Virgin Media’s Tonight Show that he reiterated what he had said publicly in his statement to gardaí, a process he took “very seriously” having sought legal advice. 

“I absolutely regret and apologise for having attended it. I regret the anger and the hurt, particularly, the hurt that I caused by attending,” Calleary said. 

“I really want to reiterate that the legal process will take its course,” he said, adding that he is not sure if there will be charges levelled against him but that his legal advice has indicated that the organisation of the event is the issue. 

“We’ll let the DPP decide. And one thing I’ve learned from last year is to take one day at a time.” 

On 19 August last year, 81 people attended a dinner in a Clifden hotel, Co Galway as part of an Oireachtas Golf Society event. The guests were split into two separate groups and a partition was drawn between them, it’s been claimed.  

Gatherings had been limited to 50 people, but the day before the Golfgate dinner, the Government unveiled new restrictions to combat the growing number of Covid-19 cases.

On 21 August, Gardaí said it would probe alleged breaches of The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No.3) Regulations 2020.

Under these regulations referenced by Gardaí, the law states that: “A person shall not organise, or cause to be organised, an event for cultural, entertainment, recreational, sporting, social, community or educational reasons in a relevant geographical location other than where one or more of the following applies:

(a) in the case of an indoor event, the maximum number of persons attending, or proposed to attend, the event (for whatever reason) does not exceed 50 persons.

Among those who attended the Golfgate dinner alongside Calleary were EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe, former RTÉ presenter Sean O’Rourke, and a number of Senators. 

Calleary resigned immediately from his role, and Hogan resigned later following increasing scrutiny of his whereabouts and actions.

Calleary said last night that he is at peace with his decision to resign as “the public health message would have been damaged” if he didn’t take that action.

When asked about the actions of other attendees he said “when you’re in a glass house it’s not a good thing to throw stones” but that he views his position differently from others, given he was a cabinet member involved in drawing up public health regulations. 

“You either resign or you don’t. As I said, the hurt and the anger that was caused by the event was real, and was very real for people that are across the country. And it needed a resignation, my resignation, to respond and to recognize that hurts and that anger.”

A report by a former judge found that Séamus Woulfe’s resignation would be “disproportionate” to his actions, but the increased scrutiny of his decision to attend the dinner raised separate issues about the judicial appointment process.

Woulfe had been the Attorney General at the time that the Covid restrictions he is accused of breaching at the Clifden dinner were drafted.

Last month, Fianna Fáil readmitted three senators who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden and had subsequently lost the whip; Fine Gael also readmitted three senators who had been present.

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