Irish politics has been plunged into chaos after dozens of current and former politicians attended a parliamentary golf society dinner, allegedly in breach of the country’s coronavirus social distancing rules.
Ireland’s national police force confirmed in a statement Friday that it was “investigating an event” held in the city of Galway on Wednesday evening that may have breached coronavirus-related health laws. Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary has resigned, as has the vice chair of Ireland’s upper house, Jerry Buttimer.
Irish Twitter users expressed their furor Saturday over the dinner using the hashtag #golfgate. The dinner was held by the parliamentary Oireachtas Golf Society at a hotel in Galway with more than 80 people listed as in attendance and with seating plans showing 10 people per table, according to the Irish Examiner.
One Twitter user vented his anger over the dinner, saying the dinner made a mockery of everyday people’s sacrifices.
The day before the dinner, the government tightened restrictions on indoor gatherings to just six people. Weddings and some cultural events, including plays and concerts, could be attended by up to 50 people, although there was confusion over whether those rules had come into effect. Older restrictions also capped the number of people sitting at one table indoors to six from no more than three households.
Irish media reports said that the event space originally included a partition to separate the group and keep numbers in each section to below 50. Some quoted sources saying the partition was removed for speeches.
Several Twitter users pointed out the hypocrisy of having one rule for politicians and another for everyone else.
Calleary, who resigned Friday, apologized in a series of tweets on Thursday, expressing “sincere regret” to his government colleagues. “In light of the updated public health guidance this week I should not have attended the event. I wish to apologise unreservedly to everyone,” he wrote.
Buttimer shared on Twitter a letter sent to the chief of parliament’s upper house saying his attendance “had compromised the government at a time when people, across every sector of Irish society are doing their best to keep all safe during this global pandemic.” Calling it an “unintended but serious lapse in judgement,” Buttimer said he “should not have attended the dinner” and consequently would tender his resignation.