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Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan arriving at a Cabinet meeting in Dublin Castle last month. Leah Farrell/

Eamon Ryan 'regrets' controversy caused by Zappone and Green Party events

“In hindsight, in terms of maintaining public confidence, I’d prefer had we not attended those events,” the minister said today.

EAMON RYAN HAS said he regrets the controversy caused by events attended by himself and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in recent weeks.

The Environment Minister again stated that the Green Party event held at the Merrion Cricket Club and the event organised by former minister Katherine Zappone at the Merrion Hotel adhered to Covid-19 guidelines.

However, speaking on Morning Ireland today, Ryan said: “In hindsight, in terms of maintaining public confidence, I’d prefer had we not attended those events … I regret very much that it did lead to this controversy of the last week.”

Last week, the Irish Independent reported that Zappone had hosted an outdoor event on 21 July on the grounds of the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. Varadkar was among the 50 people in attendance and said heregretted going and that he “probably let his guard down”.

The Irish Examiner later reported that Ryan attended a party organised by Green Party councillor Claire Byrne in the wake of the Dublin Bay South by-election at Merrion Cricket Club on 29 July. Byrne said that no more than 50 people were in attendance “at any one time”.

Updated guidelines

On foot of the Zappone controversy, Attorney General Paul Gallagher advised the government that up to 200 people can attend organised outdoor events and gatherings.

This resulted in Fáilte Ireland updating its guidelines for organised outdoor events. A statement released by the government on Friday noted: “The guidelines have also been updated to allow for live music and other performances outdoors in hospitality settings, subject to all of the relevant public health guidance.”

Ryan today acknowledged that the lack of clarity on how many people were allowed to attend such events was regrettable.

“To back up what both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste said, there is a real problem and it’s a real regret that the guidelines in regard to those events weren’t as clear as they should have been,” Ryan stated.

He said that, as society continues to reopen, the government must be clearer in its communications.

“What we expect is that with vaccination levels hitting the levels they are, we will be able for further openings,” Ryan said, adding that the guidelines need to be simplified so the entertainment industry can start to reopen.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday said “further clarity and consistency” was required on Fáilte Ireland’s guidelines following the controversy.

In a statement, Martin said the Tánaiste “expressed his regret at attending the Merrion Hotel outdoor event”.

“While the event did not breach regulations, the government accepts that further clarity and consistency on guidelines was required,” Martin said.

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