Dara Calleary resigns after breaching Covid-19 guidelines at Galway golf event

Dara Calleary resigns after breaching Covid-19 guidelines at Galway golf event
Minister Dara Calleary has apologised after attending a golf event with 80 other people, which may have breached Covid-19 guidelines. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary is resigning from cabinet, effective immediately.

The resignation follows the Irish Examiner's revelation that Mr Calleary was among over 80 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society event on Wednesday which appeared to breach public health guidelines.

Mr Calleary apologised last night for his attendance at the event, which also included EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, multiple senators and independent TD Noel Grealish.

He said he "should not have attended" the event at a hotel in Galway, which took place just 24 hours after the new Covid-19 measures were introduced.

It is understood that Taoiseach Micheál Martin was "furious" about the event, which came just 24 hours after new Covid-19 guidelines were announced.

Current public health guidelines say that no more than 50 people should gather indoors.

An Garda Síochána has confirmed it is investigating the event.

"An Garda Síochána is investigating an event that was held in Co. Galway on the 19th August, 2020 into alleged breaches of The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No.3) Regulations 2020, as amended.

As this is an active investigation An Garda Síochána has no further comment."

The Agriculture Minister's resignation letter read as follows:

Dear Taoiseach, 

Further to our conversation last night I have reflected on my position in government overnight.

The overriding objective of this government is to protect our people against Covid-19. It's destructive path has left grief and illness across our island. There has been a major national effort to do this since March and people are making huge sacrifices and suffering economic loss to do this.

My attendance at Wednesday evening's event has undermined that effort. I certainly never intended this to be the case.

I reiterate my apology to the people of our island. Their work and their commitment in this great effort has been immense.

I apologise in particular to health care workers and their families and to public health officials who's jobs I have inadvertently made more difficult.

And again I apologise to you and all colleagues in government.

Whilst I mean that apology most sincerely, it is not sufficient and accordingly I am tendering my resignation to you as Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine.

It has been a privilege to serve in this Department - if even for a short few weeks. It is an outstanding organisation with incredibly dedicated public servants serving our agriculture, food and marine communities both here and abroad.

Thank you for giving me that privilege and I once again extend my apologies and regret.

Le gach dhea ghui 

Dara Calleary TD

In a statement issued this morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Mr Calleary's attendance at the golf event was wrong and that he has accepted the Minister's resignation: 

"This morning Deputy Dara Calleary tendered his resignation as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, following his attendance at the Oireachtas golf dinner on Wednesday evening. 

"His attendance at this event was wrong and an error of judgement on his part. I have accepted his resignation. 

People all over the country have made very difficult, personal sacrifices in their family lives and in their businesses to comply with Covid regulations. This event should not have gone ahead in the manner it did given the Government decision of last Tuesday.

"Dara Calleary, since he was first elected to Dail Eireann has been, and remains, a committed and dedicated public representative. 

"This error of judgement was out of character. He has made the right decision for the country, particularly in the light of our continued efforts to supress Covid-19."

Earlier, Sinn Féin's housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin told Newstalk Breakfast the Dáil should be reconvened "as a matter of urgency".

"I have to say it's just another example of the dysfunction at the very heart of this Government.

"We've had this week a not-so private row between the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, we've had the most hastily announced set of restrictions measures, huge contradictions.

"We've had Government departments contradicting each other, we've had the minister for health contradicting Government departments.

"And now we have not just one minister, but possibly other senior politicians and former politicians breaching both the old and the new rules.

"What we need is we need the Dáil to be convened as a matter of urgency.

"And we need Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar not only to make statements on all of these issues, but to take questions.

"And that needs to happen as quickly as possible."

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