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Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary (file photo).
Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary (file photo).
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Galway Cathaoirleach says golf event smacks of 'one rule for them and another for us'

Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary was among those at a golf function with over 80 attendees at a hotel on Wednesday night
Aug 21st 2020, 7:31 AM 68,602 101

THE CATHAOIRLEACH OF County Galway has called on Fianna Fáil to apologise to the public after Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary was among those at a golf function with over 80 attendees at a hotel on Wednesday night.

Calleary resigned from his ministerial role this morning.

James Charity, an independent councillor, earlier said it was arrogant for people to attend the event the day after new restrictions were introduced, adding it “smacks of ‘one rule for them and another for us’”.

“I am appalled to see the good name of our county once again dragged into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons by the antics of a Fianna Fáil government and one of its ministers,” Charity said.

He said people are “outraged”, noting that many people were unable to attend the funerals of loved ones during the pandemic.

The Irish Examiner reported that the Oireachtas Golf Society event to celebrate its 50th anniversary was held at a function room at the Station House Hotel in Co Galway on Wednesday night – the day after the government announced stricter Covid-19 restrictions.

Eighty-one people attended the event, with the room divided into two. The Examiner reported that up to 10 people were seated at tables.

Calleary apologised “unreservedly” for attending the event.

“In light of the updated public health guidance this week I should not have attended the event. I wish to apologise unreservedly to everyone. We are asking quite a lot from everyone at this difficult time,” Calleary said.

“I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues.”

Outrage

Charity said he has been inundated with “outraged” people contacting him about the situation, many of whom “were unable to attend funerals of loved ones due to government restrictions”, “celebrate milestone family events” or “visit family members in hospital”.

“All are outraged that a certain political class thinks they are above all of the rules. While the identities of the remaining attendees have yet to be confirmed, I understand there were other people from across the political spectrum and it is now clear that all of them owe not only an apology to the people of Galway, but also to the country,” Charity said.

A number of other politicians who attended the event have apologised including Fianna Fáil’s Paul Daly, Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer and John Cummins, and independent TD Noel Grealish.

Grealish, who is captain of the Oreachtas Gold Society, issued an apology earlier today, but the Galway Cathaoirleach said it did not go far enough.

He said the ‘Golfgate saga’ is a resignation matter for him. 

“As Captain of the Golf Club, Deputy Noel Grealish bears primary responsibility for the organisation and progression of an event that was, essentially, for political elites,” he said.

“At a time when our political leaders are meant to lead by example, Deputy Grealish saw fit not only to proceed with this event against Government guidelines, but also to attempt a circumventing of those guidelines by relying on a partition screen in the function room. This has brought our County here in Galway into disrepute, as well as being an insult to every citizen in our State, and Deputy Grealish must resign.”

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EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, a former Carlow-Kilkenny TD for Fine Gael, also attended the event. Hogan’s spokesman told the Irish Independent “the Commissioner complied fully with all quarantine/restricted movement requirements on his return to Ireland” from Brussels.

A spokesperson for the Station House Hotel told the Irish Examiner that they consulted with the Irish Hotels Federation, who told them the event could go ahead with fewer than 50 people in each side of the room.

“My understanding of dining arrangements is that in any dining room it has to be fewer than 50,” the spokesperson said.

“There were 81 people at the event who dined with us, divided into 45 and 36. It’s not a Mickey Mouse partition, it’s a proper physical structure that divides two rooms, but it can be removed.”

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn was asked about the event at the Department of Health briefing yesterday evening before details of the guest list had become public.

He declined to comment on the specific gathering but said that the guidance against numbers involved were clear.

“The guidance is very clear. Six people in a group can go to a restaurant and sit at a table together. I don’t know the function that you’re talking about last night, I don’t know the details of it. I’m not going to comment on it,” he said.

“Clearly in the context of the guidance that’s come out this week, we would not want 80 people gathering inside at any event, but I don’t know the details of this specific event.”

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