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Gardaí want to speak to dinner organisers as outrage grows

  • Calleary quits as minister after furious backlash to event


The Clifden Station House Hotel, where Dara Calleary attended the event

The Clifden Station House Hotel, where Dara Calleary attended the event

The Clifden Station House Hotel, where Dara Calleary attended the event

Gardaí will be interviewing the organisers of this week's Oireachtas Golf Society dinner at a Galway hotel as part of their investigation into alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

Yesterday Garda Headquarters confirmed that it was carrying out inquiries into Wednesday evening's event at the Clifden Station House Hotel.

They did not name the hotel in their statement.

The function was attended by more than 80 people, including now former agriculture minister Dara Calleary, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe and senator Jerry Buttimer.

Calleary and Buttimer both resigned from their positions yesterday as public anger grew.

An investigation is now being conducted by local gardaí.


Dara Calleary

Dara Calleary

Dara Calleary

It will specifically focus on the organising of the event.

No formal complaint was made to gardaí in relation to the dinner, but a decision was made to carry out an investigation following media reports.

As part of their inquiry gardaí will speak to those who were involved in the planning and organising of Wednesday night's Oireachtas Golf Society function.

This is expected to include senior hotel staff as well as any society members who may have been directly involved in organising the dinner.


Organiser Donie Cassidy

Organiser Donie Cassidy

Organiser Donie Cassidy

Under emergency regulations brought in during the current pandemic, a person shall not organise, or cause to organise, events indoors with more than 50 people in attendance.


It's understood that the room that hosted the dinner was divided by a partition with fewer than 50 people on each side.

The maximum sanction for organising an event in breach of the Covid-19 regulations is a fine of up to €2,500 and/or up to six months in prison.

While organising an event in breach of regulations is prosecutable, there are no penal provisions in relation to health guidelines for people attending.

Throughout yesterday receptionists at Clifden Station House took calls from enraged members of the public.

A staff member who was working at the event said it was "very busy".

One politician who was in attendance at the golf dinner told the Herald he had no concerns about the event as it was underway.

"Well no, because I mean, look it, I've been at this [golf event] about four or five previous occasions and they are normally held in the clubhouse.

"Last week there was some mutterings that it mightn't be going ahead.

"But then seemingly they vetted the hotel and the hotel had told them that given the then regulations they could ensure that everything was done according to the law."

He continued: "At no time did I think we broke the regulations. I mean we played golf under the regulations.


"We weren't allowed to take the pin out of the hole when you go to putt, we weren't allowed to use the showers after the golf. We weren't allowed to change in the changing rooms. All of these rules applied all of the time.

"I didn't deliberately set out to break the law," he said.

Despite defending his attendance at the event the politician conceded that the golf dinner "should have been cancelled".

The event was organised by the president of the Oireachtas Golf Society and former Fianna Fáil TD Donie Cassidy in honour of former Fianna Fáil MEP Mark Killilea Jnr, who died in 2018.

Mr Killilea's family was in attendance at the event.

"Maybe because they were honouring someone who was deceased and they decided for the sake of the family they would plough on with it.

"That was the error.

"Maybe in the anxiety to go ahead with something maybe somebody should have called stop," our source said.

"And in fairness to Dara Calleary, he is not even a golfer. He doesn't know the first thing about golf.

"He and his wife, I understand, were taking a few days holidays and said, 'Well okay we will go into this function and say something about Mark Killilea and then we will be gone to another part of Galway for a few days break'."