Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has apologised for attending an event at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, hosted by former minister Katherine Zappone.
As reported by The Irish Times, speaking on the RTÉ Six One News on Friday, Mr Varadkar said: "I probably let my guard down". However, he added that he did not breach public health regulations by attending the event.
He also denied that guidelines for the hospitality industry were revised to cover his attendance at the event.
Earlier today, Fáilte Ireland published updated guidelines for the industry amid confusion regarding whether organised outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people are permitted.
The event in the Merrion Hotel led the Government to clarify on Wednesday that such events were allowed, based on advice from the Attorney General, however, Mr Varadkar continued to face calls from Opposition parties to answer questions on the matter.
Earlier on Friday, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said Mr Varakdar needed to come out of “hiding” to answer questions on the Zappone controversy and the updated measures.
In his first public comments regarding the event, Mr Varadkar said: "I want to express my regret at the fact I attended that event and that it’s led to this controversy. And I want to say sorry to the hospitality industry in particular, they’re struggling to get open again and it doesn’t help them that the guidelines are changing and are unclear at times, and to any members of the public who are confused about what the rules are.
"But I do want to say very clearly that the event was not in breach of the Government regulations in place at the time which allow for outdoor gatherings of over 200, and probably wasn’t in breach of the Fáilte Ireland guidelines either."
The Tánaiste added guidelines for the hospitality industry were not clear and have changed 35 times since the pandemic began.
He clarified there are four levels of rules: Government regulations, Government advice, advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), and sectoral guidelines, such as the Fáilte Ireland guidelines for the hospitality industry.
Mr Varadkar said he checked the regulations prior to attending the event and also checked with the organiser and hotel manager.