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Minister Dara Calleary apologises for attending golf event in breach of health guidelines


Minister for agriculture Dara Calleary (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for agriculture Dara Calleary (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for agriculture Dara Calleary (Brian Lawless/PA)

AGRICULTURE Minister Dara Calleary has apologised and said he should not have attended an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner that breached the Government’s public health guidelines.

Mr Calleary apologised “unreservedly” to the public and to his Government colleagues after admitting he was one of a number of current and former TDs and Senators who attended a dinner at hotel in Galway last night.

Mr Calleary confirmed he attended the dinner organised by the Oireachtas Golf Society to mark its 50th anniversary in the Station House Hotel, Clifden, Co Galway. The dinner followed a two-day golf tournament for the society captain’s and president’s prizes which took place at the nearby Connemara Golf Club. A number of current and former Oireachtas members participated in the golf tournament.

The Irish Examiner first reported that the dinner had between 60 to 80 attendees split across a partitioned function room at the hotel. The function was organised by the society’s president, former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy, with the event honouring the late former Fianna Fáil MEP Mark Killilea.

Mr Calleary, who was a family friend of Mr Killilea, is understood to have told the organisers he would speak at the event as long as it was within public health guidance. A source said there were no more than six people at his table.

However, the official guidance on all mass gatherings signed off by the Cabinet, of which Mr Calleary is a member, on Tuesday is that no more than six people from no more than three households can attend indoor gatherings or events. Only weddings are exempt from this guidance where up to 50 people can attend.

Mr Calleary said in a statement: “Last night I attended a function I committed to a number of weeks ago, having been asked to pay tribute to a person I respected and admired greatly.

"In light of the updated public health guidance this week I should not have attended the event. I wish to apologise unreservedly to the public, from whom we are asking quite a lot at this difficult time. I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues.”

A spokesperson for Mr Calleary had originally confirmed: “The Minister was asked to attend the dinner and speak in tribute to a deceased long-serving former Oireachtas member. He did attend and spoke briefly. He left following the dinner and observed social distance throughout the event.”

Former Fine Gael Senator Cáit Keane, who was listed as having attended, declined to comment, referring all questions to Mr Cassidy. She confirmed she had played golf in Connemara, but added: “I have absolutely no comment to make on it at all.”

Former Fine Gael senator Paul Coghlan confirmed he also attended the event, but insisted: “We were all socially distanced.”

Other confirmed attendees included Fine Gael Senator John Cummins.

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