The partition separating the group of 80 people at the Golfgate dinner was opened for guests to hear the speech and receive the award

A section that segregated a group of 80 people at the infamous Golfgate dinner in 2020 was opened to allow guests to receive awards and hear speeches by former Minister Dara Calleary and former EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, a court testified.

Former TDs, Senators and Oireachtas staff have taken a stand in Galway County Court in defense of the Oireachtas Golf Association dinner, which is said to have been floated. Covid-19 limited during the second pandemic wave.

The event took place at the Clifden Court Hotel in Co Galway


The event took place at the Clifden Court Hotel in Co Galway
James Sweeney Hotel


James Sweeney HotelCredit: PA

The court has said that former Seanad leader Donie Cassidy is on trial “as a lawmaker not a lawbreaker” as his lawyer claims “hysteria has been whipped” over the dinner , which he said did not break the law.

Cassidy, as well Galway TD Noel Grealish and hotel owners James and John Sweeney appeared before Galway District Court charged with violating the Covid-19 emergency law.

Four men are charged with organizing or causing the organization of a golf dinner in the Station House hotel in Clifden on August 19, 2020, allegedly in violation of Covid-19 laws restricting the number of people at an indoor event down to 50 people.


This offense is punishable by a fine of up to €2,500 and six months in prison.

The golf swing comes at a time when Ireland is battling a new wave of Covid-19 with Goverment asked people not to gather indoors in groups of more than six – however, this was not the law at the time of the dinner.

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The golf course dinner resulted in Agriculture Secretary Dara Calleary, Deputy Leader Seanad Jerry Buttimer and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan all relinquishing their roles due to their attendance at the event.

The opening day of the trial Golfgate heard evidence from 24 witnesses including current and former senators, former TDs and Oireachtas staff who attended the golf dinner.

The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Oireachtas Golf Association and is specially meant to commemorate the late TD, Senator and MEP Mark Killelea, who was a founding member of the group.


Witnesses told the court they were invited to a two-day golf event in Galway by Donie Cassidy, the society’s president, who appeared in court on Thursday.

The two days of golf were ended with a dinner at the Station House hotel in Clifden on August 19, where everyone was led to their assigned seats on either side of the large partition separating the room.

The court heard that dinner started around 8pm and ended at 11pm with speeches and awards ceremonies before some guests had a drink in the hotel lobby.

Colm Smyth, SC, who represents Donie Cassidy told the court that the dinner did not violate Covid-19 laws and declared his client to be “a legislator not a lawbreaker.”

Mr Smyth told the court that “everyone jumped on a horse-drawn carriage” to show that dinner attendees were ignoring Covid rules because they occupied a particular status in society.

He claimed that the Irish national press suggested that the new Covid rules to limit indoor gatherings to six people were agreed at an emergency Cabinet meeting the day before the automatic dinner went into effect. force and applied to dinner.


He said “the press got in” and “hysteria was unleashed” about the golf dinner resulted in people resigning from their positions.

Mr Smyth stated Donie Cassidy took all appropriate actions to ensure the dinner complies with Covid-19 regulations.

Donie Cassidy’s attorney argued that the Oireachtas Golf Association dinner was held in a room separated by soundproof partitions, resulting in the dinner becoming two separate events – one with 45 people and one with 35 people.

Mr Smyth also cited evidence from former Attorney General Seamus Wolfe, who attended the dinner and was a witness in the trial.

Justice Seamus Wolfe was Attorney General at the time the Covid-19 laws were being drafted, and his evidence says that the specific numbers and “specifics” in regulations are often changed after the Government. government consults with industry representatives.

State prosecutor Eoghan Cole denied the claim that the dinner was two separate events and claimed that attendees all received equal invitations to one event.


He said dinner staff worked on both sides of the fence and at one point the fence was separated to speak.

Former Attorney General Michael McDowell is representing TD Noel Grealish in the trial and denied State claims that politician Galway had any role in organizing the dinner.

He said Deputy Grealish was the Independent Captain of the Oireachtas Golf Association and was therefore only responsible for the Captain’s day which occurred the day before the event in question and was unrelated to the dinner.

Hotel owner John Sweeney


Hotel owner John SweeneyCredit: PA
Former Seanad frontman Donald Cassidy


Former Seanad frontman Donald CassidyCredit: PA
TD Noel Grealish


TD Noel GrealishCredit: PA

He told the court he wanted to clarify that Deputy Grealish had no role in organizing the President’s dinner.

The court heard a host of prominent politicians attended the dinner along with others, whom one witness said “you’ll see on TV”.

The former Justice Secretary made Supreme Court Justice Seamus Wolfe, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, former Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and former pirate deputy leader Jerry Buttimer all present.


Before RTE star Sean O’Rourke, former TD Michael Harty, former Minister Brian Hayes and his sister and Ambassador to Morocco were also present at the dinner, the court heard.

Fianna Fail Sen. Aidan Davitt, who attended with his wife, told the court that the hotel had gone to great lengths to ensure that the event was in compliance with Covid regulations.

Patricia McGrath, a nurse who was invited to the dinner as a guest, told the court she was in a vulnerable group when it came to Covid-19 but still felt that the event was well regulated.

Most of the questions from the prosecution centered around the partition separating the 80 guests. The court heard about 54 guests were staying at the hotel.

The court heard that there was a fixed gap at one end of the bulkhead to allow staff to wait in and out.

Later, during an awards ceremony, the partition was split so that those in the “back room” could hear the speeches.


Golf association president Donie Cassidy spoke with guest speeches from Agriculture Secretary Dara Calleary and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan.

During the award ceremony, two guests from the back room stepped over the partition to the podium.

Several witnesses told the court they had been assured by Donie Cassidy that the event was in compliance with Covid-19 regulations.

Senator Davitt said Mr Cassidy showed him an email he had received from the Hotel Federation of Ireland and Failte Ireland regarding the event.

In a statement to the court, Senator Paul Daly of Fianna Fail said he apologized for attending a social media golf party in 2020 due to media outrage.

He said that he made this statement because of the public mood that he considers not to have all the facts.


Attorneys representing hotel owners James and John Sweeney have made separate arguments in court against allegations that they organized the event.

Lawyers for John Sweeney, 61, a hotelier in Clifden, argued that instructions from Failte Ireland for hotels state that two separate events can take place in a hotel at the same time.

These instructions bear the mark of the State, he said, and cannot be set aside or ignored in court – an opinion the judge agreed to.

Attorneys for James Sweeney questioned why the hotel company’s directors were charged in the case and not the company itself.

She told the court that the hotel’s licensee was the only person who could be responsible for organizing an event, not her client.

The trial continues today with legal teams hoping to wrap up the proceedings by the end of the day but two more dates have been set for February if more time is needed.

Dara Calleary by Fianna Fail


Dara Calleary by Fianna Fail
Former European Union Commissioner Phil Hogan


Former European Union Commissioner Phil Hogan The partition separating the group of 80 people at the Golfgate dinner was opened for guests to hear the speech and receive the award

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