#GOLFGATE: Ireland boils over an Oireachtas Golf Society’s dinner Event amid Pandemic restrictions

The event that happened in County Galway, threw the Irish Government in a turmoil. Oireachtas [Irish parliament] Golf Society’s dinner, which took place on Wednesday at the Station House Hotel in Clifden, was schedule brought upon backlash on the top government officials who attended it. This story was first reported by Aoife-Grace Moore, a journalist at the Irish Examiner, making a huge scandal out of the gathering, a story which is now challenging the very credibility of the government of Ireland.

The meeting took place just a day after the Irish Government tightened restrictions in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases. The cases in Ireland had exceeded the 200 mark on the 15th August, the highest since May. According to the said restrictions, the number of people who could attend a gathering indoors was reduced from 50 to 6, with certain exceptions. Many other lockdown restrictions have not been relaxed yet and the opening of the pubs have also been postponed as Ireland’s Chief Acting Medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn thinks that it is the phased relaxation that was resulting in people “acting recklessly”.

Following the restrictions and rising cases, the dinner at the hotel, attended by highly esteemed public figures did not sit well with the citizens. Among the 80 who were present there, Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary was present who has since apologised as well as resigned from his post, Jerry Buttimer, the leas-chathaoirleach (deputy chairman) of the Irish senate was present who has also resigned. Supreme Court judge Séamus, who has been in the centre of criticism because of his advises to the government, has also apologised for his attendance. Other sitting politicians have lost the party whip. The most important development though is the presence of EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan, who was about to lead-free trade negotiations with the post-Brexit UK.

Philip Hogan has resigned owing to the controversy, apologised and taken full accountability of his actions stating in his letter that, “…it is abundantly clear that the event should not have been held and that I should not have attended this dinner. I accept this and have made a full apology to the Irish people for having done so.” In a resignation statement, the outgoing commissioner said he regretted his trip to Ireland had “caused such concern, unease and upset… I reiterate my heartfelt apology to the Irish people for the mistakes I made during my visit,” But that is not it, Philip Hogan has also been accused to breaking his 14 day quarantine period after travelling into Ireland from a non-green country Netherland, where he attended a golf tournament. One day before his quarantine period ended, he was seen with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in Dublin, a meeting a spokesperson had said was “essential”. He also broke the county lockdown regulations when he visited an apartment in Kildare en route to the Gold Event. He clarified in a statement that as he was tested negative for coronavirus on 5th August, he felt no obligation to complete his 14 day quarantine period.

Now being deemed as #Golfgate, the scandal is not going to stop after the attendees have subsequently apologised. The Gardaí, Irish Police is investigating whether the assembly violated any of the Irish Pandemic restrictions. James Sweeney, from the Station House Hotel where the event was held, told RTÉ he had checked with the Irish Hotels Federation to ensure the event complied with regulations. He said he was told it would be, if the guests were in two separate rooms, with fewer than 50 people in each.

 There is no doubt that it is going to look bad for the government that has not followed its own orders of a tougher approach to the control of the virus in the country. It will lead to not only the reduction of trust of the people in the government but also it will also mean undermining the compliance with the norms set by the government. People have also pointed a finger at the country’s elites who are exploiting their privilege and rolling in favourable treatment conferred upon them by the government. “It is the optics of a mainly male Golf Society meeting in a hotel. One law for them, and one law for the rest of us,” said Gail McElroy, professor of political science at Trinity College Dublin.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Apoorva Mishra

Apoorva Mishra is a Former Journalism Intern at The Kootneeti

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