Calleary resignation: 'I should have had the cop on not to go to event'

ireland
Calleary Resignation: 'I Should Have Had The Cop On Not To Go To Event' Calleary Resignation: 'I Should Have Had The Cop On Not To Go To Event'
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James Cox
Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary has resigned from Cabinet with immediate effect.

Mr Calleary's resignation comes after controversy surrounding his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society event that included more than 80 guests.

He had been due to appear on a number of morning radio shows following the incident but Mr Calleary has instead announced his resignation.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has accepted his resignation, adding that Mr Calleary's attendance at the event was "wrong and an error of judgement on his part".

Mr Martin said: "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.

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"Dara Calleary, since he was first elected to Dail Eireann 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."

In his resignation letter, Mr Calleary said his attendance at the event had undermined the national effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

He wrote: "I re-iterate 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.

"It has been a privilege to serve in this Department-if even for a short few weeks. It is an outstanding organisation with incredibly dedicated public servants serving our agriculture, food and marine communities both here and abroad.

"Thank you for giving me that privilege and I once again extend my apologies and regret."

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Speaking on Midwest Radio, Mr Calleary said he should have had the "cop on not to go to the function".

He said: "I was part of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that decided the new regulations, I should have been aware of them and I'm taking responsibility for that aspect as well. The hotel in fairness, got guidance from their regulatory body but there were new guidelines brought in in the meantime and there was crossover there. Social distancing was being observed but certainly I didn't expect there to be 80 [people in attendance]."

"Look, we could go through all the logistics of it, at the end of the day I should have had the cop on not to have gone, I didn't want to let people down but given that new regulations had come in, I should have had the cop on not to go to the function and not to be part of any big function," Mr Calleary added. "That's why I've taken the decision I have [to resign], I've let people down and I need to understand people's anger and distress and I'm genuinely very sorry."

I've let my colleagues in Government down.

When asked if the Taoiseach 'called for his head', Mr Calleary replied: "No he didn't, I thought about it right through the night, what a mistake I had made. I had conversations with the Taoiseach but I had to put my hand up, admit I had messed up and taken away from the national effort. He's entitled to be angry and disappointed, I've let my colleagues in Government down."

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The Irish Examiner reported that 81 people were at the event in a hotel in Clifden, Co Galway on Wednesday night.

Other guests at the event included EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, independent TD Noel Grealish, Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe, and former RTÉ broadcaster Sean O'Rourke.

Mr Buttimer has since resigned over his attendance at the event.

Waterford Senator John Cummins has apologised for his attendance at the event. Mr Cummins told Waterford News & Star: “Last night I attended a function at the Station House Hotel in Clifden following a golf event at the Connemara Golf Club. In light of the updated public health advice issued on Tuesday I should not have attended the dinner following golf. I have been so careful in adhering to the public health advice since February and this was a lapse of judgement for which I genuinely apologise unreservedly.”

Asked on Thursday evening about an event where 80 people were present, acting chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said that while he did not know of the specific event, “I would not want 80 people at any event.”

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In a statement last night, Mr Calleary said he had committed to attending the function a number of weeks ago, and should not have attended in light of updated public health guidelines.

"Last night I attended a function I committed to a number of weeks ago, having been asked to pay tribute to a person I respected and admired greatly. In light of the updated public health guidance this week I should not have attended the event," he said.

"I wish to apologise unreservedly to the public, from whom we are asking quite a lot at this difficult time. I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues."

A spokesman from The Station House Hotel said they consulted the Irish Hotels Federation, who told them that the event could go ahead with fewer than 50 people in each side of the room, which it said was divided into two by a "physical structure" with 45 people in one section and 36 in the other.

Gardaí have confirmed they are investigating the breach of Covid-19 restrictions at the event in Connemara.

Under the current restrictions, it is an offence to organise an indoor event for more than 50 people, or an outdoor event for more than 200 people.

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Offences are punishable by a fine of up to €2,500, up to six months imprisonment, or a combination of both, according to Citizens Information.

Dara Calleary has resigned as Minister for Agriculture after controversy over his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society event where over 80 people were present.

Minister for Education Norma Foley was on RTÉ's Morning Ireland to discuss the reopening of schools this morning, asked about the resignation of her colleague Mr Calleary, she said: "Dara has done the honourable thing in this instance, he's acknowledged that it should not have happened, he has accepted personal responsibility and I think that's the appropriate action that he has taken."

When asked if others who had attended the event, including European Commissioner Phil Hogan, should also resign, Ms Foley replied: "Each of the others will have to look at their own personal circumstances and look at their own situation, and indeed judge it based on the standard that Dara has set. I do believe it was a serious error of judgement, there is a personal and collective responsibility for each of us in society to do what we need to do to keep each other safe. Dara Calleary has been very genuine in the remorse he expressed for the event, it was a serious lapse of judgement but it was most unlike Dara Calleary and he has put his hand up and taken responsibility."

Sinn Féin's housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin has said the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have questions to answer about the attendance of members of the Oireachtas at the golf event in Clifden earlier this week.

Dysfunction

"This was not just about Dara Calleary," he told Newstalk Breakfast. “This is another example of the dysfunction at the very heart of this Government.”

"In a week when the Taoiseach and Tánaiste had a not-so-private-row, Government departments contradicted each other, now there was an incident where not just one Minister, but possibly other senior politicians and former politicians had breached both the old and new guidelines," he said.

“What we need is the Dáil to be convened as a matter of urgency and we need Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar not only to make statements on all of these issues, but to take questions. That needs to happen as quickly as possible.”

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said it is up to the authorities to question why the golf dinner in Clifden went ahead.

Speaking on Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show, Mr McGrath described Mr Calleary as “a very honourable person. I have known him for over 20 years, he is a really committed public representative. He went out of a sense of loyalty to the Killilea family but it was not right to do so because it was in contravention of the guidelines. It sets the wrong example".

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