DR Michael Harty has apologised unreservedly for a “serious lack of judgement” over his decision to attend the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden on Wednesday last.
In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, Dr Harty confirmed he did attend the dinner, which has already led to the resignation of Dara Calleary as agriculture minister.
The former chairman of the Dáil Health Committee stated this was a “serious lack of judgement and concentration on my part for which I take full responsibility”.
Dr Harty was among more than 80 people who attended the dinner, which is the subject of a Garda investigation on suspicion it breached the Covid-19 regulations.
Senator Jerry Buttimer, who also attended the event held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Oireachtas Golf Society, resigned as leas cathaoirleach of the Seanad on Friday.
Since late June, indoor gatherings have been restricted to 50 people under the Government’s public health controls in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Further restrictions announced earlier this week identified only weddings and artistic and cultural events as being allowed to have groups of up to 50.
The Kilmihil-based GP has apologised unreservedly to his profession, patients, the people of Clare and the wider community and has pledged that this will not happen again.
“To attend this dinner showed very poor deliberation and leadership. I put myself in a situation which breached public health guidelines.
“I attended the event without thinking or applying common sense and should have realised that such a gathering was not appropriate in the midst of a pandemic.
“I again take full personal responsibility for what was a clear breach of Covid 19 pandemic guidelines and recommendations from NPHET and the Government. I acknowledge the hurt and distress my actions have caused.
“My attendance undermined the commitment and sacrifice that everyone has made in controlling the spread of Covid 19 while keeping our population safe, reopening our schools and trying to keep the economy functioning. This was a breach of social cohesion and trust.
“The lesson for myself is to critically think about every situation I am presented with and to apply the principals and guidelines of public health advice and to act accordingly,” he stated.
He stressed his attendance at the dinner does not reflect how he normally conducts himself or practice his profession.
“Since the onset of the pandemic I have advocated for and supported all measures to control the spread of the virus. This personal lapse of mine has been a serious breach of my adherence to the public health principles of keeping our population safe. I can assure you this will not happen again,” he added.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the controversy over the Oireachtas golf society dinner “compromises and potentially undermines” key public health messages.
The event “flew in the face” of key messages on social distancing and other public health measures to combat the spread of the virus, he said.