THE Attorney General Paul Gallagher has advised the Government that parties of up to 200 people are permitted outdoors.
The Attorney General’s intervention came after it emerged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar attended a party of 50 people organised by former minister Katherine Zappone.
In a statement from the Government Press Office, it is noted “further updates will be made to the guidelines to ensure that people have clarity about how organised outdoor events may operate into the future”.
Shortly after that statement this evening, Mr Varadkar also issued a statement saying he was “confident” his attendance at the event did not breach public health guidelines.
The statement from the Attorney General notes that legislation allows a person can organise a “relevant event” outdoors and the numbers in attendance can be as high as 200 or even 500 in some cases.
Fáilte Ireland guidelines for both indoor and outdoor dining say multiple bookings are not permitted by customers in restaurants, pubs and hotels. The Irish Hotels Federation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland have said they did not believe large organised events were permitted under the current rules.
The Attorney General’s intervention came an hour after Ms Zappone announced she would not be taking up the controversial special envoy role she was offered by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.
The Tánaiste said he was “confident” Government Covid-19 restrictions were not breached by his attendance at Ms Zappone’s party in the Merrion Hotel.
However, the Tánaiste conceded updates will have to be made to guidelines for parties in hotels to “ensure that people have clarity about how future organised outdoor events may operate”.
Mr Varadkar said he confirmed with Ms Zappone and hotel management that the outdoor party was compliant with Covid regulations before he attended.
“I was present for about 45 minutes, spoke to Dr Zappone briefly and listened to her speech before returning to work. The event took place entirely outdoors,” he said.
“I always strive to adhere to Covid restrictions and as a public representative I try to be extra careful in that regard. Government regulations permit organised outdoor gatherings and events of up to 200 people.
“There were about 50 people present. The definition in the regulations includes social events as well as recreational, exercise, cultural, entertainment or community events. I am confident these regulations were not breached. This matter has been checked with the Attorney General,” he added.
Mr Varadkar added that he accepts “mistakes were made in the manner in which Dr Zappone was appointed a special envoy and regret the controversy it’s caused”.
Ms Zappone has said she was assured by the Merrion Hotel her party was in compliance with Government Covid-19 rules.
In a new statement, the hotel said: “At all times since the start of the pandemic, The Merrion hotel has adhered to Government public health measures including the relevant guidelines that were in place at the time of the event on July 21st.”
“Regulations in place at that time, as published on Gov.ie, allowed for outdoor events of up to 200 people. In relation to hotel guidelines published by Fáilte Ireland, there have been significant changes to these since the event on 21st July – the version of the Guidelines that were in place at that time made no reference to outdoor organised events,” a spokesperson added.