The hospitality sector has lost a “huge amount of revenue” over confusion surrounding the industry guidelines, it has been claimed.
The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said he hopes to receive updated and clarified guidelines from Failte Ireland regarding outdoor dining.
Fáilte Ireland, which is responsible for issuing Covid-19 guidelines to the hospitality sector, is meeting with Government officials on Thursday to update the public health guidelines and provide clarity on the operation of outdoor events.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Cummins said: “It’s important businesses and society understand what is required in terms of rules/limits.
Hoping to get updated @Failte_Ireland guidelines this afternoon regarding Outdoor Hospitality
It’s important businesses & society understand what is required in terms of rules / limits.
Hospitality businesses have lost huge amount of revenue due to confusion over guidelinesAdvertisement
— Adrian Cummins 🇮🇪🇪🇺 (@adriancummins) August 5, 2021
“Hospitality businesses have lost huge amount of revenue due to confusion over guidelines.”
The meeting comes after it emerged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar attended a private outdoor function of 50 people at the luxury Merrion Hotel, which was hosted by former government minister Katherine Zappone.
Fine Gael’s Colm Brophy said that further “clarity” will be given, but said he did not want to “prejudge” the clarification.
The Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said: “We have regulations which are quite clear, and the regulations allow… and we’re now going to have Failte Ireland clarify that.
“I don’t want to prejudge that clarification.
“Between the regulations and the guidelines, we have a lack of clarity. That has been acknowledged.”
The Government minister said he did not know whether the guidelines published by Fáilte Ireland were checked with the Office of the Attorney General before they were issued.
Mr Brophy said the clarification from the Attorney General Paul Gallagher is “quite clear”.
“Now what we need to do is to make sure that the guidelines which stem out those regulations are clarified and tightened,” he added.
He added he hopes that the public will buy into the public guidelines.
Attorney General statement
Earlier, the Green Party’s Neasa Hourigan apologised over the intervention of the Attorney General in the controversy, calling it “incredibly unhelpful”.
Ms Hourigan said a Government statement sent on Wednesday in which the Attorney General advised that coronavirus regulations “provide for organised outdoor events and gatherings up to 200 people” had sent out the wrong message.
Ms Hourigan said the statement was “technically correct”, but it was not in the spirit of the public health advice and had sent out the message “that it’s OK for 200 people to get together in a field and have a party”.
The event was held six days before Ms Zappone was appointed UN special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression, a role she has now declined following a week of controversy.
Ms Hourigan said: “I’m very sorry for the last week, I think it has been a bit of a mess.
“I have to say the thing I’m sorriest about is the intervention of the Attorney General yesterday. I think that was incredibly unhelpful.
“I think the message that has gone out now is that it’s OK for 200 people to get together in a field and have a party.”
She told Newstalk: “There is a difference between the law and guidelines. And I think the only way we’ve managed to do things over the last 18 months is through consent, and through the cooperation of people.
“I think that the intervention last night implies a message that it’s OK now, we can all get together. The reality is that we’re at 1,300 cases and it’s the wrong message to send out.”
Ms Hourigan said the Government must provide clarity on “what the public health guidance actually is, not what we can get away with under the law”.
The confusion seems to have arisen around discrepancies in the legislation put in place by Government, and guidelines issued to the sector by Fáilte Ireland, which were updated on July 23, two days after the event at the Merrion Hotel.
“I was aware actually at the time that the guidelines did not exactly align with the law as it stands, but that the guidelines were more constrained to encourage people to do the right thing, particularly in light of the Delta variant,” Ms Hourigan said.
Outdoor events guidelines
On Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said he was “confident” that coronavirus regulations had not been breached at the event, adding that the matter had been checked with the Attorney General.
He said “further updates will be made to the guidelines to ensure that people have clarity about how future organised outdoor events may operate”.
Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane said that Mr Varadkar’s actions have “undermined the Government’s public health confidence”.
“We’ve seen an illustration again of the type of stroke politics where Fine Gael believe they are above the law, that they should be treated differently to others,” Mr Cullinane said.
“It’s another example of doing favours for friends, and again the Government mired in a scandal which is about cronyism, mired in a scandal about doing favours for friends and stroke politics.
“We haven’t heard from the Tánaiste at all during this last week, that’s unacceptable.
“The Tánaiste is at the centre of this scandal, he needs to make a statement today as to why he attended the event at the hotel.
“He needs to make a statement as to why we are seeing a scrambling by Government to retrospectively change the guidelines or to interpret the guidelines to justify an event that took place.
“It’s very telling we are not hearing from any Government representative, and no one from Fine Gael is making themselves available to the media.
“It’s very telling that the hospitality industry was unaware of the fact that up to 200 people were permitted at a social event outdoors at a pub, restaurant or hotel.”