Irish minister resigns after breaching COVID-19 rules
Ireland’s agriculture minister resigned on Friday for breaching government coronavirus guidelines by attending a parliamentary golf society dinner.
Prime minister Micheal Martin said he accepted Dara Calleary’s resignation after just 37 days in the position, calling it “the right decision” and an “error of judgement”.
“People all over the country have made very difficult, personal sacrifices in their family lives and in their businesses to comply with Covid regulations,” said Martin.
“This event should not have gone ahead in the manner it did given the government decision of last Tuesday.”
The event was held on Wednesday, the day after Ireland’s government announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus and a new surge in cases.
The Irish Examiner newspaper said Calleary was among 82 people at the Oireachtas (parliament) Golf Society’s 50th anniversary dinner held at a County Galway hotel.
EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan and swathes of other lawmakers and judges were also said to be in attendance.
Just 24 hours earlier, Martin’s government ordered a ban on events or parties at hotel restaurants, and that no more than six people should be seated at a single table when dining.
The Examiner said attendees sat in groups of 10 and the room was divided, to try to follow recommendations limiting diners to no more than 50.
Martin said Calleary acted “out of character” and the former minister apologised unreservedly in a statement on Twitter late on Thursday.
“In light of the updated public health guidance this week I should not have attended the event,” he added.
Calleary is the second politician to serve as agriculture minister in Ireland’s new government formed at the end of June.
His predecessor was sacked after controversy over a drink-driving ban.
In Britain, there has been public outrage that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, kept his job despite flouting coronavirus restrictions.
Housing minister Robert Jenrick also escaped sanction for breaking lockdown rules but Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, was forced to quit for doing the same.
University professor Neil Ferguson also stepped down from advising the UK government after breaching stay-at-home rules.