Irish minister resigns over golf dinner

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Irish minister resigns over golf dinner

Dara Calleary one of more than 80 guests at a parliamentary golf club dinner at the Station House hotel in Clifden, Galway hosted by the Irish parliament’s Oireachtas golf society. The event reportedly took place after a golf tournament.

It was organized to mark the society’s 50th anniversary. Guests included the agriculture minister, senators, an EU commissioner and a supreme court judge. Once news broke that Dara Calleary spent Wednesday night with 80 other people at a golf function in a Galway hotel, with the rest of the country ordered to reduce their social interaction, his days were numbered — he just didn't know it.

It is an offence to hold an event with more than 50 people in attendance. This has plunged Irish politics into crisis and an investigation by the Irish police was announced. The event, now labelled as “Golf Gate”, lead to not only Calleary’s resignation, but also Jerry Buttimer, the deputy chairperson of the Irish upper house, the Seanad, announced their resignations on Friday.

More heads could roll

The dinner, held last Wednesday, might yet claim more high-profile political figures. Details of the dinner and its high-profile guest list were published on Thursday by the Irish Examiner, leading to a stream of apologies and excuses.

Calleary, who had held his post for just over a month, resigned on Thursday night after calling Micheál Martin, the Irish taoiseach to confirm he had been a guest. Martin, who removed the Fianna Fáil party whip from three senators who attended, said Calleary’s attendance at the event was “wrong and an error of judgment on his part”.

In a radio interview following his resignation Calleary “acknowledged [to] frontline workers and their families and public health workers, the damage I’ve done to their work, unintentionally”. “I absolutely fully support their work, they’ve done huge work in the last six months and they’ve made huge sacrifices and my actions undermine that work”.

Calleary, the agricultural minister for all of a month, had no excuse since he attended the cabinet meeting where the latest coronavirus restrictions were discussed and agreed upon the day before the event. Calleary even took to the airwaves on Tuesday evening after the latest lockdown measures were announced, scolding the irresponsible young people that were to blame for the latest spread of the virus.

Resolute, and with the weight of his position as a senior member of Government, he warned the nation "Covid loves to party" Less than 24 hours after his public warning, Minister Calleary was out enjoying himself with dozens of others at the golf dinner.