Mr Hayes said his presence at the gathering in August this year was "a big error of judgement". The event led to the resignation of then minister for agriculture Dara Calleary and European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Attended by more than 80 people, it went ahead despite Covid-19 public health guidelines placing limits on indoor gatherings.
Asked if he had considered resigning, he said: “I did but I felt having spoken with our board that it wasn’t the appropriate thing to do. I took on an important responsibility for an important sector. A sector that I believe in, that has made a huge number of mistakes in the past, but a sector that’s important to the future of this country”.
“And I thought the right thing to do was to stick with it, to apologise, which I did, and I’ve no difficulty in making that apology again to you now,” he told RTÉ Radio’s Drivetime programme.
Several times, Mr Hayes returned to the point that he was on his holidays when the event occurred, and that he would usually attend the golfing dinner as part of his holiday routine.
When asked if he could understand the perception that there was a golden circle of politicians socialising with representatives of the banking sector, he said that was not what happened. “Anyone who knows me knows I play golf. They know I’m a former member of the Oireachtas. It was a social setting for people.”
“All I can tell you is the truth and I know others want to depict it in another way but that’s a matter for other people.”