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Agriculture Minister apologises after attending golf function with over 80 attendees

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and Senator Jerry Buttimer were also in attendance at the event.

Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary
Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

Updated Aug 20th 2020, 11:01 PM

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE Dara Calleary has apologised “unreservedly” after attending a golf function with over 80 attendees at a hotel last night. 

The Irish Examiner this evening 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 last night. 

81 people attended the event, with people split into two separate rooms. 

The Examiner reported that up to 10 people were seated at tables. 

Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary was in attendance at the event. 

In a statement this evening, Calleary apologised “unreservedly” for attending the event. 

“Last night I attended a function I committed to a number of weeks ago, to pay tribute to a person I respected and admired greatly,” Calleary said. 

“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,” he said. 

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer also this evening confirmed his attendance at the event and issued an apology. 

“I attended an event at the Station Hosue Hotel in Connemara last night. In light of the updated public health advice I should not have attended,” Buttimer tweeted. 

“I apologise for this, in doing so I am mindful of the tremendous effort made by everyone since March to try and beat this virus. flattening the curve by adhering to public health advice and lockdown measures,” he said. 

“This was a lapse of judgement on my part for which I sincerely apologise.”

Reacting to the revelations tonight, RISE TD Paul Murphy said it was “scandalous”. 

“One day after the new guidelines were announced, the ‘Oireachtas Golf Society’ broke them,” he tweeted. 

“One rule for 80 figures from the political establishment, another for ordinary people.”

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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.” 

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, former Carlow-Kilkenny TD, confirmed to Damien Tiernan, host of WLR’s morning show and former RTÉ South-East correspondent, that he was in attendance at the event. Five sources confirmed Hogan’s attendance to the Irish Independent this evening, but a spokesperson for the Commissioner had not initially confirmed.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn was asked about last night’s event at the Department of Health briefing this 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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