Jerry Buttimer resigns as Seanad Leas-Cathaoirleach following golf event attendance

Mr Buttimer posted a letter of his resignation from the position on social media this morning
Jerry Buttimer resigns as Seanad Leas-Cathaoirleach following golf event attendance
Senator Jerry Buttimer. File picture: Maxwells

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has resigned as Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.

Mr Buttimer was among over 80 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society event on Wednesday which breached public health guidelines.

Dara Calleary has also resigned as Minister for Agriculture following his attendance at the event after the Irish Examiner broke the story last night.

Mr Buttimer posted a letter of his resignation from the position on social media this morning.

He said his attendance “at a dinner event in Galway this week has compromised the Government at a time when people, across every sector of Irish society, are doing their best to keep all safe during this global pandemic.

"It was an unintended but serious lapse of judgement in attending the event.

“I should not have attended the dinner and I herby tender my resignation as Leas Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann to the Cathaoirleach of the 26th Seanad.

“I apologise unreservedly for my actions this week.

“For the last six months, this country has come and worked together, to defeat Covid-19. It is an ongoing battle and our collective societal response is important and our individual actions matter.

“I wish everyone every success in this fight."

There is mounting pressure on him to resign from the Seanad following his attendance at the event.

Last night, Mr Buttimer confirmed his attendance and apologised on social media. 

He wrote on Twitter: "I attended an event at the Station House Hotel in Connemara last night [Tuesday]. 

"In light of the updated public health advice, I should not have attended. I apologise for this, in doing so I am mindful of the tremendous effort made by everyone since March to try & beat this virus,  flattening the curve by adhering to public health advice & lockdown measures. 

"This was a lapse of judgement on my part for which I sincerely apologise."

The Irish Examiner reported last night that the Oireachtas Golf Society event to celebrate its 50th anniversary was held at a function room at the Station House Hotel, Clifden, Co Galway last night, even though public health advice clearly states "no formal or informal events or parties should be organised in these premises".

The table plan listed 82 people for the sit-down function, with up to 10 people per table, even though guidelines state no more than six people should be seated at any one table.

Tánaiste and Fine Gael lead Leo Varadkar has removed three senators from the Fine Gael party whip for attending the Oireachtas Golf Society event on Wednesday night, including Mr Buttimer. 

Mr Varadkar said: "The event organised by the Oireachtas Golf Society should not have happened. I understand how extremely difficult the restrictions have been for people and the enormous sacrifices we have all made.

"Funerals, christenings, weddings, family holidays and other really important family occasions have been foregone to protect each other and the most vulnerable. As representatives we should lead by example.

"In recognition of the seriousness of this matter, I have removed the party whip from Senators Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke and John Cummins. Senator Jerry Buttimer has also resigned his position as Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad.

"All have apologised profusely and accept they made a serious error of judgment."

Mr Buttimer's resignation comes as pressure is mounting on other senators who attended the event and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan to clarify their own positions.

An Garda Síochána has confirmed that 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."

Leader of Fine Gael on Cork City Council Cllr Des Cahill has said he is inundated by angry people contacting him about the Oireachtas golf outing. 

Mr Cahill said: "It is certainly irresponsible of people in public office. People have made huge sacrifices since March and this behaviour in not obeying public health guidelines has been described by many this morning as disgusting.” 

When pressed if Senator Jerry Buttimer & EU commissioner Phil Hogan should resign Mr Cahill said: “It is certainly time for all attendees to do some personal & professional reflection. In fairness to Dara Callery he has taken the decision to resign.

Mr Cahill added that you "have to question the fitness of all who attended to serve in public office".

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