Hysteria led to a lot of good people having to resign jobs, trial is told
January 07 2022 02:30 AM
“Public hysteria” whipped up following the events surrounding the so-called Golfgate controversy led to the forced resignation of “a lot of very good people”, a barrister has told a trial triggered by the scandal yesterday.
The trial of two prominent politicians and father and son hoteliers over alleged breaches of the Health Act at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner held during Covid restrictions in August 2020 began in Galway District Court yesterday.
The accused include the alleged organisers, Independent TD Noel Grealish (55), of Carnmore, Co Galway, and former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy (75), of Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.
Both men face a single charge that on August 19, 2020, they organised an event that contravened the Health Act 1947, as amended, to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.
John Sweeney (61), the owner of the Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co Galway, and his son James (32), the hotel’s general manager, face the same charge.
In the fallout from the controversy, the then agriculture minister Dara Calleary, European commissioner Phil Hogan and leas-cathaoirleach of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer resigned their positions, and six senators lost their party whip.
Opening the prosecution case, Eoghan Cole BL outlined the legislation in place when the event at the Station House Hotel on August 19, 2020, occurred.
Mr Cole said the prosecution’s case is simply that the event staged by the Oireachtas Golf Society was in breach of the Health Act 1947 as amended to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The court heard that 81 invited guests attended a dinner at the hotel when it was prohibited to organise an event with more than 50 people.
Six witnesses gave evidence in person during the opening day of the trial, while a further six statements of attendees were read into evidence.