Irish minister resigns over COVID-19 breach, colleague says

Dara Calleary, Deputy Leader of Fianna Fail speaks to party members at the launch of their general election manifesto in Dublin, Ireland

Ireland’s agriculture minister resigned on Friday, a cabinet colleague said, after his attendance at a social event which may have breached COVID-19 regulations drew a wave of public anger.

Dara Calleary apologised “unreservedly” late on Thursday for being at a hotel dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society, a day after the government significantly tightened nationwide restrictions to try to rein in a spike in infections.

Ireland has maintained some of the strictest controls in Europe and the government faced criticism all week for what many saw as poorly communicated and contradictory new restrictions, including limiting indoor gatherings to just six people.

More than 80 people, reported to have included European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and other politicians, attended the golf outing held the night after Calleary and his cabinet colleagues introduced the new measures.

“It really was a very serious error of judgment. Dara has made a fulsome apology and he has put up both hands now and he has resigned,” Education Minister Norma Foley told national broadcaster RTE.

“It (the event) shouldn’t have taken place. The rules are clear, the rules are unambiguous. We must all play our part and behave as we have been asked to behave.”

A version of Calleary’s apology on his Twitter account received almost 2,000 replies within two hours, many from people angry that they were unable to attend funerals because of the restrictions or had to cancel holidays or weddings.

Calleary was named agriculture minister last month when his predecessor was fired after news emerged of a drink-driving prosecution just two weeks into the term of Prime Minister Micheal Martin’s new coalition government.

Calleary’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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