There is “very justifiable and understandable anger” across Ireland over a controversial golfing event which led to the resignation of two high profile public representatives.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said it is “very clear” that the event held in Galway was not in line with public health guidance.
The country’s Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and Senator Jerry Buttimer both resigned on Friday morning after it emerged they attended a golf society event indoors with 81 other people.
They were guests at the Oireachtas Golf Society event, which also included Independent TD Noel Grealish as well as EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and former attorney general Seamus Woulfe.
The event was held at the Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co Galway.
Mr Buttimer resigned as the deputy chairman of the Seanad (Leas-Cathaoirleach).
Dr Glynn said: “There’s a very justifiable and understandable anger in Ireland today.
“It’s not misplaced.
“But what I will also say, from my perspective as a clinician, is that the virus couldn’t care less about anger and in fact it’s only waiting for an opportunity for anger or complacency or any other emotion that will trip us up as a community and stop us adhering to the public health advice.
“I know that there will be people today who throw their hands up, but I’m asking them not to. Even if they don’t want to do it for their community as a whole, I’m asking them to do it for themselves and their families because the virus doesn’t care about outside events.
“All it’s doing is looking for people to transmit to from one to the other and make people sick and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.
He added that it is “very clear” that the event should not have taken place.
Current guidelines state that no more than 50 people should gather indoors.
Gardai confirmed they have launched an investigation into the event.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said what happened was “wrong an inexcusable”.
He added: “There are people all over this country who have made huge sacrifices and who continue to make huge sacrifices and at a minimum, the Irish people need to see those rules followed by members of the Oireachtas.
“It simply shouldn’t have happened.”
Earlier Taoiseach Micheal Martin said in a statement: “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 judgment 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.
“This error of judgment was out of character.
“He has made the right decision for the country, particularly in the light of our continued efforts to suppress Covid-19.”
I apologise unreservedly for attending a function in Clifden following a golf event in Connemara last Wednesday. In light of the updated public health advice issued on Tuesday,I should not have attended this dinner. I genuinely apologise unreservedly for this error of judgement.
— Aidan Davitt (@SenAidanDavitt) August 21, 2020
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the event should not have taken place, adding it was a clear breach of the Covid-19 regulations.
“I think Dara Calleary has done the right thing.
“The measures that have been put in place this week have been difficult for us all.
“Cabinet ministers who participate in making decisions that impact people like this have a duty more than anyone else to stick to the regulations.
“He made a mistake, he apologised and now he has resigned.
“I hope this will not impact the good work happening right now across government.
“There is no doubt that this has been a difficult few months.
“We are living through unprecedented times, so many families have lost loved ones and many more have made huge sacrifices.”
Mr Calleary quits the Cabinet just five weeks after being appointed to the role following the sacking of Barry Cowen.
Mr Cowen was dismissed after he refused to provide further public statements on his 2016 drink-driving offence.
Mr Grealish also apologised “unreservedly” after attending the hotel dinner.
Mr Grealish, who is the captain of the Oireachtas Golf Society, told Galway Bay FM that he sat at a table with six people and practised social distancing.
He claimed he had been assured that the event met new public health guidelines, but now realises his error of judgment.
Last night I attended a function I committed to a number of weeks ago, 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. I wish to apologise unreservedly to everyone 1/2
— Dara Calleary (@daracalleary) August 20, 2020
Fianna Fail Senator Aidan Davitt also issued an apology over his attendance.
In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “I apologise unreservedly for attending a function in Clifden following a golf event in Connemara last Wednesday.
“In light of the updated public health advice issued on Tuesday, I should not have attended this dinner.
“I genuinely apologise unreservedly for this error of judgment.”