It is outrageous that our Covid restrictions were collectively breached by numerous politicians, a Government Minister, the deputy chair of the Seanad, a Supreme Court Judge, a European Commissioner, a bank lobby chief executive, and a retired RTE political presenter.
Ideally, this cartoon collection of conflicts of interest should not have been socialising together under the auspices of the Oireachtas Golf Society in the first place. That they did so in breach of pandemic guidelines that ordinary citizens are obeying is beyond comprehension.
Ordinary citizens have spent months restricting our movement and our social lives to contain the spread of the pandemic. People have cancelled weddings, been unable to visit family members and, heartbreakingly, stayed away from the funerals of loved ones.
Yet this group of eighty powerful people travelled from all around the country to bring a pandemic risk into one local community, then back to each of their own communities.
To make things worse, one was just back from playing golf in Spain and should have been in quarantine.
The idea that this was an unfortunate error of judgement is not good enough, for five reasons.
1. Oireachtas members are the people who make the rules for the rest of us. More than anybody else in the country, they should be aware of the detail of the rules and of their particular responsibility to maintain and support them.
2. They should have postponed the event until next year months ago, just to show a good example. If UEFA can postpone the European Championships, the Oireachtas Golf Society can postpone its annual outing and dinner.
3. Even if they did decide to go ahead, they should have limited it to the fifty people including staff allowed for an indoor event. They should be actively promoting and supporting the guidelines, not undermining them by nod-and-wink ‘partitioning the room’ nonsense.
4. Even if they hadn’t rescheduled it and hadn’t gone above the allowed fifty people including staff, they should have immediately cancelled the event once the new guidelines of six people for an indoors event were announced. Just cancel it, full stop, like ordinary citizens would have had to do.
5. Anybody who genuinely turned up under the mistaken belief that the event was conducted within the guidelines must have known that was wrong once they saw the room’s layout. They should have immediately left at that stage.
Finally, Sinn Fein has no credibility attacking the people who breached the guidelines. They did the same themselves at the recent funeral of IRA leader Bobby Storey.