‘Those who went to golf event danced all over my dad’s grave’
A man who lost his father to Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic has hit out at attendees of the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner.
Dom McGroddy’s father John passed away in a Dublin nursing home in early April and only 12 people could attend his funeral.
“I am absolutely furious,” Mr McGroddy told the Irish Independent. “My father died from Covid and we had no event. Only 12 family members attended his funeral. Tose who attended the event in Clifden have danced all over his grave.”
John and his wife Nell McGroddy, both residents in a Dublin nursing home, tested positive for coronavirus within days of each other.
The couple’s adult children watched from behind a glass window while their mother, who has since recovered, wore a mask and gloves to say goodbye to her husband.
“My mother was taken in by nurses to see my father one last time after he died,” said Mr McGroddy, “My sisters could only watch from behind a glass window while she held his hand.”
Mr McGroddy said his anger was directed at all those who attended the event on Tuesday night, not just those who had resigned.
“My kids couldn’t go to their grandfather’s funeral,” he said.
“I’m absolutely furious about all this, and feel like I’m screaming into a void, because I feel like some of these politicians and high-profile people absolutely don’t give a s**t about normal people,” he said.
“I just can’t believe 80 so-called intelligent people thought this could have been a good idea. They are laughing at us.”
Grieving families such as the McGroddys aren’t the only ones who are furious.
Maureen Kavanagh, chief executive of Active Retirement Ireland, which represents 500 organisations around Ireland, said its members were also outraged.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin went on the national airwaves on Tuesday night to urge over-70s and other vulnerable groups to restrict their movements and social interactions and return to shopping at designated times only. They were also advised not to use public transport due to a resurgence of the virus.
However, the following evening, the Oireachtas Golf Society gala dinner in Connemara was attended by approximately 80 people.
“We’ve had quite a few calls today from members asking if there is there one rule for us and another rule for them,” Ms Kavanagh said. “Our members would be quite outraged due to the restrictions imposed on older people.
“It was very disappointing. We need to see leadership and we don’t seem to be getting it. We need to see clarity and leadership if we’re going to survive this.”
Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintner’s Federation of Ireland (VFI), represents 4,000 publicans whose ‘wet’ pubs remain closed under Government restrictions. He said his members were “aghast” at the scandal while they were doing everything possible to reopen.
latest Phil Hogan still defiant amid anger over Clifden golf event
Pressure mounting on judge to step down over golf dinner controversy
Supreme Court Judge Séamus Woulfe is coming under significant political pressure to step down from his position after he attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner that was in breach of the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
Justice Woulfe was among around 80 attendees at a golf tournament and dinner in Galway on Wednesday, which resulted in Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary resigning. Six senators also lost their party whips, including Jerry Buttimer who resigned as Seanad leas-cathaoirleach.
Mr Woulfe has apologised for attending the dinner but has said he did not realise it was part of the golf event.
However, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly has said that Justice Woulfe should “reflect” that he would have “been gone this morning” if he had still been the Attorney General.
“The judge should reflect on the propriety of attending such an event and accepting such hospitality from the Oireachtas as a serving member of the judiciary,” Mr Kelly said.
“I expect the Chief Justice will be having a long chat with him today,” he added.
Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane said it was “unhealthy” that senior judges, lobbyists for corporate bankers and senior Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians should be “rubbing shoulders at private golfing events”.
“All of those in attendance at the event should reflect on their decision to attend and on their positions. They need to do what is right,” he added.
Mr Cullinane said all of those in attendance had “collectively undermined” people’s confidence in the Government, which is crucial during a pandemic.
Rise TD Paul Murphy said Justice Woulfe should step down from the Supreme Court in light of the controversy. “I think it’s completely untenable for Séamus Woulfe to continue as Supreme Court judge,” Mr Murphy said.
“In his former role as AG, he drafted the regulations. In his current role, he is responsible for enforcing them. By breaching the health guidelines, he is undermining them and endangering public health.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he understood “what people would expect and what their feelings would be” but insisted he could not comment on Mr Woulfe’s position as it would be inappropriate due to the separation of powers between the Government and judiciary.
Mr Justice Woulfe said he “unreservedly” apologised for “any unintentional breach” of the coronavirus guidelines.
“I would never disregard governmental or health authorities’ advice regarding public health, and have been at pains to follow guidelines since their introduction,” he said.
He said he had not been aware that dinner was part of the event.
“On learning of the proposed dinner during the course of that day, my understanding was that the organisers and the hotel had satisfied themselves that they would be operating within Government pubic health guidelines,” he said.
Mr Woulfe was appointed attorney general by Leo Varadkar when Mr Varadkar was appointed taoiseach in 2017.
He is a Fine Gael supporter and a close political ally of former communications minister Richard Bruton.
After the new Government was formed, Mr Woulfe was appointed to the Supreme Court. That decision was taken by the new Cabinet of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.
He was recommended by the Judicial Appointment Advisory Board after applying for the position.