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'Further clarity' was needed on guidelines after Zappone event, Taoiseach says

Micheál Martin issued his first comments today about the event which was attended by 50 people including Leo Varadkar.

File image of Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
File image of Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Image: Leah Farrell

THE TAOISEACH HAS said “further clarity and consistency” was required on Fáilte Ireland guidelines following controversy over a 50-person event organised by Katherine Zappone. 

Earlier this week, news broke that former minister Zappone had hosted an outdoor event in July on the grounds of the Merrion Hotel. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was among those in attendance and said he regretted going and that he “probably let his guard down”.

In a statement today, Micheál 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. 

In the statement, first reported by the Sunday Independent this morning, the Taoiseach said “personal responsibility will be a key factor” going forwards. 

“The CMO and deputy CMO have made the point to me consistently that the original guidance on social distancing, wearing of masks indoors and taking precautions will be essential in the weeks and months ahead.”

Martin said Dr Tony Holohan and HSE CEO Paul Reid presented information on Covid progress this week and informed politicians that over 80% of people in ICU with Covid-19 are not vaccinated against the disease. 

“We are very conscious that a number of sectors of society have yet to reopen or have faced severe restrictions,” the Taoiseach said.

Before the end of the month, the Government will be presenting a comprehensive road map outlining how we intend to reopen the remainder of society and how we intend to manage COVID during the winter period.

“Because of the high vaccination rates which will be attained by then, the approach will be different.

“I have remained in close contact with public health officials over the past number of weeks and there will be further meetings of the Covid sub-committee on August 19 and the following week.”

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Jack Chambers, the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, said today that there had been a contradiction between the Fáilte Ireland guidelines and the regulations that underpin them.

“The guidelines have been clarified so they’re consistent with the regulations. And the regulation, which is the legal position underpinning outdoor events, remained the same before, during and after that particular event [in the Merrion Hotel],” Chambers said on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme. 

“I think we’re moving forward and that’s why the government is going to publish a new roadmap on Covid, on how we manage this pandemic going forward, in the next two to three weeks.”

Additional reporting by Céimin Burke.

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