Fianna Fáil councillor John Sheridan says he is “devastated and angry” at the actions of a number of Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members conduct in attending an Oireachtas Golf Society event in the Cliften Hotel in Galway this week.
On Friday morning, Dara Calleary TD resigned as Minister of Agriculture having attended the event which was attended by 81 people, contravening new guidelines issued by the government, and recommended by NPHET, as the country battles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fianna Fáil senators including Paul Daly and Aidan Davitt also attended the event on Wednesday evening, as did the party’s vice president Donie Cassidy. Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer has resigned as the Leas Cathaoirleach of the Seanad on the back of his attendance, while Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner, has also apologised for his presence at the social event in Galway. Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe also attended and has apologised today.
Speaking on LMFM Radio on Friday, Cllr Sheridan said he was “livid and speechless” and blamed a lack of leadership and clarity for the controversy. “I’m absolutely devastated and angry as many people are today,” he said.
“Dozens of people attending a dinner is obviously very, very concerning. I think the absence of clarity and leadership across politics is a concern. At a time of crisis, leadership and communication are the difference between success and failure. I hope this is a big wake up call,” he added.
Senator Erin McGreehan joined the Michael Reade Show to discuss the parties’ role in the controversy and refuted suggestions that Fianna Fáil were “making a mess” in government.
“It’s very disappointing this Oireachtas golf outing went ahead. I hadn’t heard about it. It is not an open invite to all politicians. The first I heard of it was on the news yesterday evening,” she said. “I believe it is 100% the wrong decision to go the event. I’m sorry that Dara and the rest of the people who went made that decision. It was wrong. We can’t have one rule for the public and one rule for politicians.
“Dara sat at that cabinet table that passed new restrictions and should have known better, unfortunately.
“I wouldn’t say Fianna Fail are making a mess of this. There are three Government parties involved. It is very easy and a great headline to put Fianna Fail front and centre of making a mess. I do think there has been confused messages on things. We had the Green List, that was wrong. We aren’t communicating properly.”
The new Senator said that the advice from NPHET was being ‘combobulated’ and getting lost between the medical experts and the Government Ministers who announce the guidelines to the public.
“The advice is not coming to the cabinet in a communicative way. We have health experts there who are making the recommendations. Somewhere between the combobulation of the health experts getting to the Ministers and the communication experts, the advice is being lost.
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“It’s about time that is fixed. I’m not happy about it. We need to get on top of that game. This is not about Fianna Fail not doing their job. Fianna Fail are there, they’re doing their job. I am trying my best to get the message out there.”
She said that the Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann should be recalled immediately to show the country that politicians were working and especially with schools set to reopen, amidst confusion surrounding the guidance for parents, pupils and teachers.
“The rules do matter. We have seen the consequences of the rules being broken. We now have a Garda investigation into the event. There is one rule for all. Questions have to be answered. I want to know why this went ahead. I will be asking my colleagues.”
Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd told The Michael Reade Show that EU Commissioner Phil Hogan had questions to answer.
“Phil Hogan has questions to answer,” he said. “I don’t really know the story about Phil Hogan but I do know if he attended the event he should answer questions and answer them today.”
Shortly after Deputy O’Dowd’s comments, Mr Hogan spoke on the matter. Writing on Twitter he said, “I attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner on Wednesday on the clear understanding that the organisers and the hotel concerned had been assured [by the Irish Hotels’ Federation] that the arrangements put in place would be in compliance with the government’s guidelines.
“Prior to the event, I had complied fully with the government’s quarantine requirements, having been in Ireland since late July.”