Uproar as Irish government minister resigns

Dara Calleary was in office for just 37 days

By Irish Echo Staff

For the second time in a matter of weeks the Irish government is without a minister for agriculture.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have both said a golfing event in a Galway hotel on Wednesday night, and amid all the restrictions required due to Covid-19, should not have happened.

The event, which was attended by more than eighty people, including many public representatives, has resulted in a political crisis, RTE reported.

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Dara Calleary has resigned as Minister for Agriculture and Jerry Buttimer has resigned as Seanad Leas-Cathaoirleach (deputy chair or speaker).

The three party coalition Irish government was but days old when Calleary was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, this after his Fianna Fáil colleague, Barry Cowen, was sacked by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Mr. Cowen’s dismissal followed controversy over a 2016 drink driving conviction that only came to light at the time of the government's formation.

Now Calleary has joined his predecessor in the ex-ministers club.

After a late night discussion with the taoiseach, Mr. Calleary tendered his resignation as minister Friday morning. It was a position he had held for just 37 days, the RTE report stated.

And attention was now turning to Supreme Court Justice Seamus Woulfe and Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, who were also among 81 guests who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden earlier this week.

While both have apologized, members of the opposition have urged them to consider their positions.

However, the RTE report continued, government sources have said that political interference in relation to a member of the judiciary is out of the question and that the position of Mr. Hogan is a matter for the EU Commission.

An EU spokesperson said Commissioner Hogan had acted in good faith and in hindsight would not have attended the event.

Both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, who met this morning, have said the event should not have happened.

RTE repoted that Gardaí said they are investigating alleged breaches of Covid-19 public health guidelines at an event held in Galway on Wednesday.

Mr. Calleary, in a radio interview, said the taoiseach is "both angry and disappointed" in him and he had let him and his colleagues in government down, "so he is entitled to be angry and disappointed and they are all entitled to that anger and disappointment."

In a statement, Taoiseach Martin said Mr. Calleary's attendance at the event was "wrong and an error of judgement on his part."

He said that Mr. Calleary "remains, a committed and dedicated public representative."

RTE reported that Mr. Martin will take over the agriculture portfolio until the Dáil is due to return on September 15, though there are growing calls for an immediate recall of the House.

Mr. Varadkar said the event should not have happened and that he had removed the party whip from three Fine Gael senators who had attended the event.

In a statement, Mr. Varadkar said he understood how extremely difficult the restrictions had been for people and the enormous sacrifices that have been made and "as representatives we should lead by example."

Fianna Fáil has also said that the party whip had been removed from three of its senators who had attended the event.

The Irish Examiner newspaper reported that 81 people were at the dinner, with guests split into two separate rooms.

On Tuesday, according to RTE, the government had announced new restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19, which included limits on social gatherings and that no formal or informal events or parties should be organized in restaurants, cafes and hotel restaurants.