PUBLIC anger will not be abated until elected representatives who attended the Clifden golf dinner, including Senator Jerry Buttimer, resign their seats.
That is according to Fine Gael councillor and former lord mayor Des Cahill. He said that while Dara Calleary had resigned as agriculture minister and Mr Buttimer had stepped down as leas- chathaoirleach of the Seanad, he believes the public feels that they and other elected representatives who attended should give up their seats.
They were among more than 80 people who attended a dinner in Clifden last Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Oireachtas Golf Society.
The event was also attended by EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan, and Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe. Their positions are now under pressure.
“It is going to be very hard for the public to tolerate unless there is a round of resignations,” Mr Cahill said. “When the public’s trust is gone, you have to go.”
He said the Clifden dinner was a “bridge too far” for an Irish public fed up with the limitations on their lives brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He made the comments as pressure continued to mount on the embattled commissioner last night, and ahead of a request today by Taoiseach Micheál Martin to the Ceann Comhairle to have the Dáil recalled. The Dáil had not been due to return until September 15.
Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar asked Mr Hogan to consider his position over the weekend, as the Government cannot fire him. However, a spokesperson for Mr Hogan said at lunchtime yesterday that he would not be resigning.
The commissioner made an apology yesterday, saying: “I acknowledge my actions have touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, something for which I am profoundly sorry. I fully realise the unnecessary stress, risk and offence caused to the people of Ireland by my attendance at such an event, at such a difficult time for all, and I am extremely sorry for this.”
He added: “I acknowledge that the issue is far greater than compliance with rules and regulations and adherence to legalities and procedures. All of us must display solidarity as we try to stamp out this common plague. I thus offer this fulsome and profound apology, at this difficult time for all people, as the world as a whole combats Covid-19.”
However, the controversy continued to hang over Mr Hogan last night, after a spokesperson confirmed that he had travelled from Kilkenny to visit his apartment in locked-down Kildare to collect “personal belongings and essential work documents” before travelling to Clifden.
Earlier yesterday, Mr Varadkar told RTÉ Radio 1 the apology had helped but Mr Hogan should go further and explain his movements around Ireland. Gardaí are investigating whether the dinner at the Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co Galway, on Wednesday night breached coronavirus regulations.
The issue continues to dominate the political agenda as families prepare for the reopening of schools this week.
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire welcomed the decision to recall the Dáil but said it would have been preferable to do so this week, ahead of the reopening of schools. “Children are going back to school this week,” he said. “I think it is very important that this happens but it has to be safe and sustainable.
“There are so many questions about school transport and about children, their relatives, or school staff who may be high risk.”
In relation to the Clifden dinner, he said: “There are still people, including Mr Hogan, who have questions to answer.”
Deputy Holly Cairns of the Social Democrats also welcomed the decision to have the Dáil recalled. However, she said she was confused as to why the plan is to wait until after schools return for this to happen.
“People’s trust has been eroded in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “It does not seem fair that people can break the guidelines when they are the ones making the rules.”
The Government said last Tuesday that it would reduce the number of people allowed to gather, in a bid to reduce the rate of spread of Covid-19.
Tables in restaurants should not exceed six people, from no more than three households, and no more than 50 people should gather indoors.