More than 50 witnesses for ‘Golfgate’ trial which could last five days
Date has been set for hearing in January at Galway court
October 28 2021 02:19 PM
MORE than 50 witnesses could give evidence at the ‘golfgate’ trial which is now expected to last up to five days.
The court case is against two prominent politicians and two hoteliers regarding alleged breaches of the health act at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner held during Covid restrictions in August 2020.
None of the four accused appeared at today’s sitting of Clifden District Court, but all four were legally represented.
Rejecting requests by defence counsel that the matter be deferred to November to fix a date for hearing, Judge Mary Fahy set a date for Thursday, January 6, 2022, at Galway Courthouse.
The alleged organiser of the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner, Independent TD Noel Grealish (55) from Carnmore, Galway and former Fianna Fail Senator Donie Cassidy (75) from The Square, Castlepollard, Westmeath, are both facing a charge.
They are charged that on August 19, 2020, they organised, or caused to be organised, an event that contravened a penal provision of a regulation made under Section 31A (1) of the Health Act 1947 as amended, to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.
John Sweeney (61), owner of the Station House Hotel in Clifden, where the event was held, and his son James (32), the hotel’s general manager, face the same charge.
If convicted the offence, is punishable by a fine of up to €2,500 and six months in prison. The court clerk called Donie Cassidy’s name first, and his solicitor JJ Mannion told Judge Fahy his client’s case was connected to Mr Grealish’s and the Sweeneys.
Mr Mannion said it was a case that had gained some notoriety, and given the significant amount of disclosure received by the defence in recent days, he believed the trial would be lengthy.
Solicitor Shane McSweeney, acting for Mr Grealish, asked if the matter to fix a date could go back to November owing to the large volume of disclosure received.
Mr McSweeney said he had not yet had a chance to meet with his client and review the state’s evidence. He said he believes the hearing could last up to five days. There was agreement among counsel the case should not proceed before Christmas.
State Solicitor William Kennedy argued for a date to be set. Then, if in November the defence deemed it necessary having reviewed the disclosure, it could be amended.
He told Judge Fahy he had to issue 51 prosecution witness subpoenas. He needed certainty on the date to deal with them in a timely manner.
Mr Kennedy said he believed the prosecution case could be heard within three days.
Judge Mary Fahy said she could confirm that the hearing would take place in Galway Courthouse, most preferably in the main courthouse and not in the satellite court held during the pandemic at Galway Rowing club owing to the large number of witnesses.
Rejecting the defence request to defer setting a date, Judge Fahy said the disclosure of evidence was not a matter for the court.
The Oireachtas Golf Society dinner, which up to 80 people attended, took place when the country had just re-entered into a Level 3 lockdown.
Government Covid-19 guidelines banned indoor gatherings of more than 50 people.
Mr Grealish was captain of the Oireachtas Golf Society at the time of the event, and Mr Cassidy was President.