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Friday, August 21, 2020, 17:59
Irish minister resigns over COVID-19 breach
By Reuters
Friday, August 21, 2020, 17:59 By Reuters

In this file photo, Ireland’s agriculture minister Dara Calleary looks at some notes at Egmont Palace in Brussels. (PHOTO / AFP)

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

Dara Calleary apologized “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’s prime minister accepted Calleary’s resignation, saying his attendance at the event was wrong.

“His attendance at this event was wrong and an error of judgment on his part. I have accepted his resignation,” Prime Minister Micheál Martin said in a statement.

Ireland’s prime minister accepted Calleary’s resignation, saying his attendance at the event was wrong

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“People all over the country have made very difficult, personal sacrifices in their family lives and in their businesses to comply with COVID regulations. This event should not have gone ahead in the manner it did.”

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.”

EU commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan arrives for the inaugural meeting of the college of commissioners, on December 4, 2019 at the European commission headquarters in Brussels. (PHOTO / AFP)

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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 Martin’s new coalition government.

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

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