Fianna Fail Senator says it was ‘shameful’ Attorney General was used for political cover over the Merrion Hotel party
- 18:25, 7 Aug 2021
- Updated: 18:26, 7 Aug 2021
A FIANNA Fail Senator has said it was “shameful” that the Attorney General was used for political cover over the Merrion Hotel party scandal.
Senator Timmy Dooley said Tanaiste Leo Varadkar should have just apologised sooner, adding that he “damaged” his standing by trying to claim coronavirus regulations covered the party.
Fianna Fail TD Willie O’Dea added that the move has put public reps in the “invidious position” of having previously advised businesses that they were not entitled to do what the Attorney General is now claiming was permitted.
On Friday, Fine Gael leader Varadkar said he regretted attending Katherine Zappone’s 50-person party at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin on 21 July – but added that the event was lawful and “probably” within the Failte Ireland guidelines.
It was held six days before Zappone was gifted the role of UN special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression – a position from which she has since resigned.
Earlier in the week, AG Paul Gallagher said that up to 200 people were allowed at outdoor gatherings within social settings – with the guidelines later updated by Fáilte Ireland to reflect this.
ISSUE DRAGGED ON
Senator Dooley welcomed Varadkar’s apology but believes one should have come sooner to avoid dragging the issue out.
Speaking to the Irish Sun he said: “I think he did the right thing to put his hands up and apologise, but that should have been done sooner.
“No one that I have met believes that the event complied with that regulation.
“That regulation was never meant to cover personal parties such as that, because what would be the difference between that event and a birthday party, an event after a funeral, or a Communion or Confirmation party?”
He continued: “I think the Tanaiste damaged his own standing by attempting to suggest that the regulation covered the party.
“In attempting to give legitimacy to it over the course of a couple of days, I think it was damaging to the Attorney General, and generally damaging to the government.”
Deputy O’Dea said the matter showed how “complex” the guidelines are and called for a helpline to be created to help public reps ensure the information they are giving to constituents is correct.
The Limerick TD said: “I’m sure that I’ve advised businesses that they weren’t entitled to do what the Attorney General now says they were entitled to do.
“Not only is it putting business people and the general public in an invidious position, but it’s also the government putting its own colleagues in an invidious position also.”
He added: “Clear guidance has to be given, but also a helpline should be established, at least for public representatives, so that when constituents come with a query, rather than trying to put their own interpretation of what are often quite ambiguous rules, we can get a clear answer for them.” Exclusive Those attending outdoor events to sit one metre apart, even if at the same table
The latest Failte Ireland guidelines state: “Physical distancing of at least one metre should be maintained between people seated at tables.
“Physical distancing of a minimum of one metre is required between the outer edges of the party (back of chair to back of chair).”
The new guidelines mean that even people who are living together have to sit one metre apart from each other when visiting a pub, restaurant or hotel.