The youth wing of Fianna Fáil issued a statement on Tuesday in which its members were “deeply concerned” with the Tánasite’s attendance at a controversial event hosted in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel on the 21st of July.
The 50-person event, which was organized by former minister Katherine Zappone, was not in breach of Covid-19 regulations according to the Attorney General.
On last Friday’s RTE Six One News Varadkar expressed “regret” over attending the gathering, but stated that the event was not in breach of the government regulations in place at the time and “probably wasn’t in breach” of the Fáilte Ireland guidelines.
Ógra Fianna Fáil’s statement argues that “Mr. Varadkar has undermined his own authority on matters of public health, but has also undermined fellow government ministers by association.”
“Last year, Mr. Varadkar was especially outspoken on the alleged impropriety of fellow politicians breaking guidelines in Clifden, County Galway. Why is such a gross double standard allowed in cases where Mr. Varadkar has a personal interest?” it continued.
Ógra Fianna Fáil’s statement also expresses that “the Tánaiste’s actions have undermined the integrity of our institutions at a time when trust in public health advice is a matter of life and death” and that he “needs to be held accountable for his role in damaging the government.”
Under the agreement reached to form the current coalition government, Varadkar will replace Mícheál Martin and begin his second term as Taoiseach in December of 2022.
Ógra Fianna Fáil has said that it would be a mistake if Varadkar were allowed to become Taoiseach again after his involvement in the controversy.
Rory Guerin is the Chairperson of DCU’s branch of Ógra Fianna Fáil and the youth wing’s Leinster Organiser.
He issued this statement on behalf of DCU’s Pádraig Pearse Cummann : “We were very disappointed, as I’m sure the majority of the Irish public were, to learn of the Tánaiste’s attendance at a mass social event in the Merrion Hotel a number of weeks ago.
What was particularly frustrating was that a similar event took place this time last summer, and the fall out of that event, which was known as Golfgate at the time, was the resignation of a senior Fianna Fáil minister.”
“The one major question that comes to mind is: How can ordinary members of the public be expected to abide by COVID 19 regulations if our senior politicians, who set and put these guidelines in place, can not set an appropriate example?
The actions of An Tánaiste has been a major distraction to the great work that the government is doing at the moment and this cannot continue,” he continued.
“Senior politicians and public representatives in particular have a responsibility to show a good example to the general public in order for us to smoothly transition back to ordinary life.”
However Taoiseach Mícheál Martin has defended the Tánaiste’s attendance at the Merrion Hotel but stressed that “as we move forward, personal responsibility will be a key factor.”
Further controversy has emerged following the Attorney General’s statement that outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people at a restaurant or hotel have in fact been legally permitted since the beginning of July.
The CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, has criticised what he believes is a lack of clarity from the Government and said that “hospitality businesses have lost huge amounts of revenue due to confusion over guidelines.”
Some Opposition TDs have gone as far as to claim that the Government had retroactively changed Covid-19 restrictions for such gatherings in order to preserve Varadkar’s reputation.
Sinn Féin frontbench TD Matt Carthy has said that “the Government is trying to dance on the head of a pin in respect of whether, despite the fact that there were outside of the guidelines, they were within the law.
It is imperative now that the Tánaiste answers the very legitimate questions that have been put to him.”
Labour TD Ivana Bacik as well as Donal Geoghegan, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan’s Chief of Staff, were also in attendance at the event.
The majority of other attendees are currently unknown however Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said that he was invited to the event but was away on government business when it took place.
Jamie Mc Carron
Image Credit: The Journal.ie