Daniel McConnell: Galway golf dinner reinforces the mindset of 'do as we say, not as we do'

Daniel McConnell: Galway golf dinner reinforces the mindset of 'do as we say, not as we do'

Dara Calleary pictured leaving the Convention Centre Dublin earlier this year. File Picture: Brian Lawless

The old adage of a week being a long time in politics now seems hopelessly old-fashioned given the pace of events in the past 48 hours.

Since Aoife Moore and Paul Hosford’s incredible scoop in this newspaper broke online on Thursday afternoon, the fallout from the Oireachtas golf event in Clifden on Wednesday has been swift and seismic.

Our story that more than 80 people attended the event in Galway has caused considerable public anger and comes at a time when the government was moving to further restrict public movement in its bid to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus.

So many thousands of people have cancelled weddings, not attended funerals or cancelled other important events in order to comply so the sight of so many political leaders dropping the ball is simply galling and unforgivable.

It merely reinforces the mindset of “do as we say, not as we do”.

Among those present were EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, former minister and bank lobbyist Brian Hayes and RTÉ broadcaster Sean O’Rourke.

Dara Calleary, this government’s second agriculture minister has resigned after a serious lapse in judgement and in truth others who were also present need to follow his example.

Due to appear on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Friday, once it was stated he had pulled out, the writing was on the wall.

In a statement, Mr Calleary explained his reason to resign as opposed to waiting to be sacked.

In his letter of resignation to the Taoiseach, released promptly to the media, Mr Calleary said he had reflected on his 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,” he said.

“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,” Mr Calleary added.

A short time later, the Taoiseach's office released a statement confirming the resignation had been accepted and also that he would be assuming the role of agriculture minister until a successor can be appointed.

Describing Mr Calleary’s decision to attend the event as an “error in judgement”, the Taoiseach who was said to be “furious” at the news paid tribute to his deputy leader.

He 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 Dáil Éireann 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.” 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin must assert some control on his administration if it is to last. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Taoiseach Micheál Martin must assert some control on his administration if it is to last. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

For a government already struggling with a competency complex, another self-inflicted own goal like this was the last thing it needed.

Micheál Martin must assert some control on his administration if it is to last.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and his senior Fine Gael team need to step up to the plate again.

They rightly stand accused of putting their party’s interest ahead of the national interest in recent weeks and the inter government squabbling and tribal warfare now needs to stop.

Personally, Calleary’s resignation is a major blow to one of the most decent politicians in Leinster House, who is respected across the political divide.

His experience and competency will be missed around the Cabinet table, but his resignation was inevitable.

It also is a serious dint in his bid to succeed Martin, whenever that day comes.

There are calls for the Dáil to be reconvened next week given the scale of the crisis facing the country.

If the Taoiseach is to regain control of his government’s narrative, others who were present will have to do what education minister Norma Foley advised them to on Friday morning – assess their own position and set themselves against the standard set by Mr Calleary.

Nothing short of that now is required.

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