Seán Kyne on Prime Time tonight. RTÉ Prime Time
Merrion Gate

Fine Gael senator says Zappone gathering was lawful, but didn't meet Covid guidelines

After repeating a number of times that the Merrion Hotel event was “lawful”, when pressed, Kyne admitted that the Covid-19 guidelines were breached.

FINE GAEL SENATOR Seán Kyne has said that former minister Katherine Zappone’s 50-person gathering on 21 July at the Merrion Hotel was lawful, but didn’t meet the Covid-19 guidelines.

Calls have been made today for the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to make a further statement on the event last month at which he was in attendance for 45 minutes. 

Varadkar, Zappone, and the Merrion Hotel have insisted that the event was in compliance with Covid-19 regulations at the time; Varadkar and Zappone both said they had queried with the hotel that they were in compliance with Covid-19 restrictions.

The Attorney General has also weighed in to say that the event was not in breach of the regulations that were in place at the time, and said that outdoor events of up to 200 people are permitted to take place.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time tonight, former government chief whip Kyne said that the regulations that make the event at the Merrion Hotel organised by Zappone legal “came into effect” on 5 July. It came under a statutory instrument that permits gatherings of 200 people outdoors with some exceptions, he said.

Senator Kyne said that he “appreciated” that the communication from the Government about what was allowed was “very poor, or didn’t happen at all, if you like”. 

After repeating a number of times that the Merrion Hotel event was “lawful”, when pressed, Kyne admitted that the guidelines were breached, and said that Government was meeting with Fáilte Ireland and other representative bodies today over the issue.

“The law clearly states that the event that took place in the Merrion was lawful,” he said.

When asked whether the event was lawful, but didn’t meet the guidelines, Kyne responded: “That’s basically it.”

“I’m sure the Tánaiste regrets attending [the event] and I’m sure former minister Zappone regrets organising it,” he said.

He added: “I do accept the Government collectively made a bad job at communicating these changes, and that should have been done.”

Following the revelation that Zappone held a 50-person event at the Merrion Hotel, across the road from Government Buildings, six days before her appointment to the role of UN Special Envoy for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Zappone announced yesterday that she would not be accepting the role.

The role was given to Zappone without an official tendering process, and without the Taoiseach being informed of the decision ahead of time.

Cabinet approved the appointment last Tuesday. When asked about the issue last Wednesday by reporters, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney had apologised for the way Zappone was appointed.

“We move on,” he added.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, the third coalition leader, said last Thursday that despite “misgivings” with the way former minister Katherine Zappone was appointed, the three leaders agreed that she would make an “excellent” envoy.

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