The regulations that the Government has selectively quoted do not show that Katherine Zappone’s social event in the Merrion Hotel complies with the Covid regulations.
Enforcing these regulations is not a trivial matter. Their stated purpose is to mitigate “the manifest and grave risk to human life and public health” posed by Covid-19. And the Gardaí can investigate records of the event that must be kept until 18 August.
Based on advice from the Attorney General, the Government has selectively quoted from two Statutory Instruments (217/2021 and 329/2021) that say that up to 200 people can attend relevant outdoor events.
But just quoting from regulations does not show that the event satisfied those regulations. For example, did the event take place “entirely outdoors”?
Given the type of event that it was, is it credible that none of the guests mingled in the indoors part of the Merrion? These details are significant. Remember, the purpose of the regulations is to mitigate “the manifest and grave risk to human life and public health” posed by Covid-19.
Also, the Government has failed to quote other requirements in relation to hotels that the event may not have met, that are part of the same Statutory Instruments.
The requirements describe hotels as “premises,” and the main Act defines “premises” as including “any outdoor space surrounding or adjacent to the premises,” so the outside part of the Merrion is part of the premises and is covered by the requirements for hotels.
These requirements include that a guest can only drink alcohol along with a substantial meal, and only while seated at a table, and the organiser must make a record of each guest and the substantial meal that they order or have ordered for them.
Given the type of event that it was, is it credible that none of the guests drank alcohol without a substantial meal, or without being seated at a table while drinking it? Particularly those guests who say they stayed for only a short period of time?
Public figures should lead by example in adhering to these regulations, and they should err on the side of caution. They should not be looking for ways to stretch the limits of the restrictions.
And where there is confusion, it is absurd that politicians who made the regulations are asking the hotel whether the regulations were met. If anything, the hotel should be asking them.
The event took place on Wednesday 21 July. The requirements include that records of the guests and their substantial meals must be kept for 28 days and must be made available for the purposes of inspection by the Gardaí and/or the HSE.
That means that these records will still exist until Wednesday 18 August. There is still a week and a half in which we can establish whether or not the event met the requirements in the regulations.
The relevant regulations
The two Statutory Instruments that the Government has selectively quoted from are:
Statutory Instrument 217/2021 was signed on 9 May 2021. This is known as the Principal Regulations. The Government has quoted the following from this Statutory Instrument:
“relevant event” means an event held, or to be held, for social, recreational, exercise, cultural, entertainment or community reasons, but does not include
(a) an event to be held in a dwelling
(b) a wedding reception
(c) a sporting event
(d) a training event, or
(e) a dance rehearsal event
Statutory Instrument 329/2021 was signed on 4 July 2021. This amends part of the Principal Regulations. The Government has quoted the following from this Statutory Instrument:
(1A) A person may organise, or cause to be organised, a relevant event in a relevant geographical location where (a) the person takes all reasonable steps to ensure that
(i) the event takes place entirely outdoors, and
(ii) the number of persons attending, or proposed to attend, the event (I) does not exceed 500 where the event is held, or to be held, in a relevant venue, or (II) does not exceed 200 where the event is held, or to be held, other than in a relevant venue
or (b) the event is a scheduled event
The Government has not quoted the requirements in relation to hotels and other services from Statutory Instrument 217/2021, which have not been amended by Statutory Instrument 329/2021. These include:
Requirements in relation to hotels and other services
13 (1) (b) a specified person shall ensure that
(ii) relevant guests who are not resident in the relevant premises are not, during the relevant period, permitted, or otherwise granted, access to the relevant premises concerned, or permitted to remain on such premises, other than for the purpose of ordering, or collecting, or both, food or non-alcoholic beverages for consumption off such premise
(iii) relevant guests who are resident in the relevant premises are not, during the relevant period, permitted to order alcoholic beverages, and
(iv) relevant guests are not permitted to purchase or otherwise acquire intoxicating liquor for consumption on the relevant premises unless the intoxicating liquor is (I) ordered by or on behalf of the relevant guest at the same time as a substantial meal is so ordered, during the meal or after the meal has ended, and (II) consumed by that relevant guest during the meal or after the meal has ended whilst such person is seated at a table.
(2) A specified person shall, in relation to a relevant premises, make a record of the time and date that each relevant guest is permitted, or otherwise granted, access to the relevant premises, and the guest’s name and telephone number and make a record of the substantial meal or meals ordered.
(3) A specified person shall retain and make available records made under paragraph (2) for the purposes of inspection by a member of the Garda Síochána acting in the course of his or her duties under these Regulations, or by a person appointed by the Health Service Executive for the purposes of the programme commonly known as the Covid-19 Contact Management Programme, for a period of 28 days after the records have been made.
The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 defines premises as follows:
‘premises’ includes a building or any part of a building, any outdoor space surrounding or adjacent to the premises, whether or not used in conjunction with the premises, any land, premises, tent, caravan, or other temporary or moveable structure, ship or other vessel, aircraft, railway carriage or other vehicle (whether stationary or otherwise) and any storage container.