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Garda Commissioner asked to investigate champagne party at Department of Foreign Affairs during lockdown


A photo taken at the Department of Foreign Affairs by former secretary general Niall Burgess and posted to Twitter.

A photo taken at the Department of Foreign Affairs by former secretary general Niall Burgess and posted to Twitter.

A photo taken at the Department of Foreign Affairs by former secretary general Niall Burgess and posted to Twitter.

The Garda Commissioner has been asked by a senator to investigate the lockdown party at the Department of Foreign Affairs in June 2020.

In correspondence to Drew Harris, Independent senator Gerard Craughwell said: “There is massive public anger over this event”.

He asked that “a full Garda investigation be launched into this event – and if the laws of the land have been broken, then whatever action you deem necessary should be taken”.

Mr Craughwell said: “I have many members of the public questioning me as to why there is one rule for the general public and another for those regarded as the insiders in Irish society.”

He pointed out that many citizens have been charged and fined for breaches of the emergency legislation brought in to protect society during the pandemic.

“Thousands of families in Ireland have had to suffer the loss of loved ones left to die alone as the restrictions prevented any close contact.

“Elderly people had to live without contact with family members again because they respected and obeyed the regulations as set out in the legislation,” Mr Craughwell said.

He added that from the photograph published in the national media it is clear that there was “no social distancing”.

He claimed that “people had to be invited to the event” at Iveagh House and alleged that “the champagne, etc., had to be ordered in”. This has been disputed.

Mr Craughwell told the Irish Independent that the party had “rightly raised public anger”.

“I understand that some 1,700 citizens have faced fines for breaches of the Covid-19 regulations.

“Many have died alone and been buried without the usual funeral. All citizens have had to cope with the most strict restrictions and they did so at great personal cost,” he added.

He said a Garda inquiry had been ordered into the RTÉ retirement gathering and questioned what was different about the Department of Foreign Affairs event.

“I'm unsure if any law was broken, but this is a matter for An Garda Síochána,” he said.

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Mr Craughwell said he was delighted “that at last, the minister has set up an investigation into the event.” But he added that he was “surprised and disappointed” that Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney had selected the new Secretary General at Foreign Affairs to investigate his own department.

“It places this man in an awful position as his independence will be questioned by many,” he said.

If, as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on radio on Sunday, the civil service is not answerable to the Government, then the question arose as to whom are they were answerable, he said.

“This matter is damaging the minister,” he added.

When contacted by the Irish Independent tonight, a garda spokesperson said in a statement: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on correspondence that may or may not have been received by the Garda Commissioner.”

They added that the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No 2) Regulations 2020 were the applicable regulations.

It provides that breaches are summary offences, and subject to a six-months Statute of Limitations, which has now expired.

Consequently An Garda Síochána “has no role”.

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