Both the organisers of the golf event dinner in Galway and management at the hotel it was held in face a criminal investigation by gardaí.
Garda sources said the core issue to be determined in the investigation is whether or not more than 50 people attended the event – and pointed out that this limit includes both those attending it and hotel staff at it.
The investigation team – and, moreover, the Director of Public Prosecutions – will examine the legal standing of claims being made that the 80 or so people at the dinner were split into separate rooms or partitioned areas and that such “multiple gatherings” were permitted.
The investigation – and political and public outrage – followed revelations by the of the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner at the Station House Hotel in Clifden on Wednesday.
All those who attended the dinner are potential witnesses in a criminal investigation, but garda sources said it would be up to investigators to determine whether or not there was a need to speak to any of them.
Gardaí will speak to hotel management and staff regarding the event and numbers attending, as well as to organisers from within the society. Sources said they will also examine hotel documentation and tills and look at any relevant CCTV.
While attending an event with over 50 people may be a breach of guidelines, it is not a breach of regulations, and not against the law.
The primary legislation introduced to combat the spread of Covid-19 solely makes organising such an event a criminal offence.
Under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 – an ‘event organiser’ is a person who:
Garda sources said this would include both the organisers within the Oireachtas Golfing Society and management of the hotel.
Sources said hotel management and committee organisers may cite, in their defence, apparent assurances from the Irish Hotel Federation that “multiple gatherings” at a venue were permitted if people were kept in separate areas and did not intermingle.
But sources stressed the organisers would still bear responsibility if the DPP determines otherwise.
A Garda statement said the investigation will examine breaches of Regulation 5 Restriction on Events, which states "a person shall not organise, or cause to be organised” an indoor event with more than 50 people.