Public figures who attended a golf dinner in Ireland with more than 80 people present committed a “monumental” error of judgment, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheal Martin said his former agriculture minister Dara Calleary had done the right thing in resigning amid a public backlash at the behaviour during the pandemic.
He urged Ireland’s European Commission member Phil Hogan to apologise wholeheartedly but refused to be drawn on the position of a newly appointed Supreme Court judge who was also present.
The Irish premier said: “It is important that those who make the rules observe the rules.”
Irish police are investigating whether the dinner, organised by the Irish parliament’s golf society in Clifden in the west of Ireland this week, and including a host of politicians, breached coronavirus regulations.
The Taoiseach denied his leadership had been damaged by the episode but acknowledged public anger compromised his Government’s messaging around the pandemic.
He told Irish broadcaster RTE: “It was a monumental error of judement on behalf of all those who attended. I am deeply disappointed in what transpired.
“It compromises and potentially undermines the important communication of the public health message.”
Mr Calleary and Jerry Buttimer, deputy chairman of the Irish Senate, announced their resignations on Friday.
The speaker of Ireland’s Oireachtas parliament has suggested the golf society be wound up.
The row has engulfed a new Dublin coalition administration which has struggled to find its feet amid the pandemic crisis as the number of infections rises.
Mr Calleary is the second agriculture minister to resign in a matter of weeks.
The Taoiseach said: “I am deeply angered and upset with what happened.”