Public anger at the decision to proceed with a golf society dinner in breach of public health guidelines in Clifden is showing no sign of abating a week after the event.
Last night EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, who attended the event in the midst of other guideline breaches, regarding the quarantining of people travelling from overseas, resigned from his position, but was insisting he "didn't break any laws".
There have also been calls for controversial Galway West TD Noel Grealish to consider his position, following the resignations of Hogan, Dara Calleary, and Jerry Buttimer.
Both the Cathaoirleach of County Galway, Independent councillor James Charity, and People Before Profit Galway, have called on Dep Grealish to resign. Cllr Charity has called on him to step down as captain of the Oireachtas Golf Club, while PBP Galway went further and called on Dep Grealish to resign his Dáil seat.
'People are outraged that a certain political class thinks they are above the rules'
"This is an absolute slap in the face to our healthcare workers, those who have suffered, and died from the virus, and everyone else who has sacrificed so much to combat this pandemic," PBP said in a statement issued this week.
The Oireachtas Golf Society event was held in Clifden – just 24 hours after new Covid-19 restrictions came into effect stating indoor gatherings should be limited to six people with exceptions for church services.
However 81 people attended the event, including the now former Minister for Agriculture, Dara Calleary; the now former Seanad Leas-Cathaoirleach, Jerry Buttimer; Supreme Court Justice, Seamus Woulfe; and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, among other public representatives. As captain of the golf society, Dep Grealish was one of the event organisers and co-signed the invitations.
'Dep Grealish bears primary responsibility for the organisation and progression of an event that was, essentially, for political elites'
A partition screen was erected in the room where the event was held, but this has been criticised as a cosmetic gesture towards Covid restrictions. Cllr Charity accused the organisers of erecting it as a way of "circumventing guidelines".
Pressure mounts on Grealish and Fianna Fáil
This breach of public health guidelines by politicians, at a time when Covid-19 cases have risen across the State, has caused anger and upset, and saw both Calleary and Buttimer resign their positions. Pressure is now mounting on Dep Grealish to do the same.
Dep Grealish has publicly apologised for the event, acknowledging he "let his constituents, his family and his friends down" and adding he realised the "hurt he caused". He said the dinner should not have taken place and that he will cooperate fully with any Garda investigation. This is the second statement Dep Grealish has made after the event – with the first made last Friday. This second statement came after a weekend of silence.
'Many people in Galway, and around the country, have had their livelihoods put on hold or destroyed. They’ve lost family members and haven’t seen family in months'
Cllr James Charity [pictured above] said Dep Grealish's initial silence "only added further insult to injury for the people of Galway", and that the subsequent apology did "not go far enough". He added that "the Golfgate saga is a resignation matter".
"As Captain of the Oireachtas golf club, Dep Grealish bears primary responsibility for the progression of an event that was, essentially, for political elites," he said. "This has brought our county into disrepute, as well as being an insult to every citizen in our State, and Deputy Grealish must resign."
Cllr Charity also said Fianna Fáil must apologise to the people for the role of its members in this affair. "The arrogance of being party to the introduction of laws restricting indoor gatherings of the public to just six people, while attending an event with more than 80, smacks of: One rule for them and another for us," he said.
"I have been inundated with people contacting me tonight outraged about what happened in Clifden; people who have been unable to attend funerals of loved ones due to Government restrictions, people who couldn’t celebrate milestone family events and who couldn’t visit family members in hospital. All are outraged that a certain political class thinks they are above all of the rules."
Calls for Grealish to resign his Dáil seat
People Before Profit Galway have called on Dep Grealish to resign his Galway West Dáil seat, saying his "flagrant disregard" for public health guidelines was "completely unacceptable".
“Many people in Galway, and around the country, have had their livelihoods put on hold or destroyed," said PBP Galway spokesperson Cian Mortimer. "They’ve lost family members and haven’t seen family in months. Yet, just as measures are tightening once again, Dep Grealish throws an indoor get-together of over 80 people. Apparently, Dep Grealish thinks the measures that the rest of us have to abide by don’t apply to him."