Zappone defends 50-person hotel event involving Varadkar

A private outdoor function at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin was hosted by Katherine Zappone and attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar
Zappone defends 50-person hotel event involving Varadkar

Katherine Zappone has defended a private outdoor function she hosted at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin which was attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Ms Zappone hosted around 50 friends and former colleagues at the event, six days before she was controversially appointed as special UN envoy, according to the Irish Independent.

Currently, Fáilte Ireland guidelines for the return of hospitality state that organised events are not allowed to take place.

In a statement to RTÉ News, Ms Zappone said: "Please contact the Merrion Hotel for their statement regarding compliance with Government Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines for my private event.

"Prior to organizing the event I enquired, and was assured by the Merrion Hotel, that the event would be in compliance with Government Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines."

Hotel statement

In a statement, the Merrion Hotel said it has adhered to Government public health measures at all times since the start of the pandemic.

It said this includes the recent event at the hotel with Ms Zappone.

Government regulations at the time allowed for outdoor events of up to 200 people, and the definition of that includes social events, it said.

Fine Gael TD for Cork North Central, Colm Burke, earlier also defended the event.

“I’m not sure where you’re saying there’s breach of guidelines, there was an outdoor event as I understand it,” he told Newstalk radio.

“I haven’t examined the report in the papers that extensively, but my understanding was that it was an outdoor event. My understanding is that Leo Varadkar checked with the hotel.”

'Acted in good faith'

The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), Adrian Cummins, meanwhile said that he was certain the Merrion Hotel acted in good faith when it organised the event hosted by Ms Zappone.

All hospitality needed to be playing on the same pitch, he told RTÉ radio’s Today show.

Fáilte Ireland needed to clarify the situation with regard to outdoor gatherings, he added.

“We’re all under extreme pressure to adhere to public health guidelines,” he said.

We need all the facts on the table

There were questions to be answered about the event in the Merrion Hotel, he said, such as were food and beverages served. “We need all the facts on the table.”

Multiple tables could not be booked under the guidelines, he said. If a mistake had been made “so be it.”

A statement was needed by the Government about what was acceptable and what was not, Mr Cummins said.

The RAI was getting calls from businesses concerned about having to turn away business. “We want to make sure we’re all on the same page, that we all understand what is acceptable,” he said.

Clarity would ensure that such confusion did not happen again, he said and he would be seeking that clarification from Fáilte Ireland at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

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