One Rule for Me: Irish and EU Politicians Caught Breaking Lockdown Rules at Party

lockdown
JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images

Several prominent politicians in the Republic of Ireland were caught at a party a day after the Irish government announced large gatherings would be banned, prompting resignations and a police investigation.

On Tuesday, Ireland’s government tightened social distancing rules, including imposing a limit of six people for indoor gatherings — a reduction from 50.

However, on Tuesday, the Irish parliament’s golf society hosted an event at a hotel in County Galway, attended by 81 people, including several high-profile Irish figures. Those included Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary, Senator Jerry Buttimer, MP Noel Grealish, and Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe.

The European Union’s European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan, an Irishman, also attended the event, according to the BBC.

Calleary later resigned as minister, and Buttimer resigned as deputy chairman of the Senate on Friday. The police are now investigating the event for breaches of coronavirus laws.

Members of the opposition have called for resignations of those who had broken lockdown rules. Sources speaking to broadcaster RTÉ said that while it is up to the government to deal with rule-breakers within their ranks, it would be “political interference” to discipline the country’s former attorney general, Supreme Court Judge Woulfe. They added that it was up to Brussels to handle its commissioner, Hogan.

The European Commission claimed Mr Hogan had attended the event in his home country in “good faith” that it followed lockdown rules. Mr Hogan said that he had been in the country since late July, which suggests that he should have been fully aware of Ireland’s laws.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar said that while restrictions have been difficult on people, “as representatives, we should lead by example”.

As the leader of the Fine Gael party, Varadkar continued: “In recognition of the seriousness of this matter, I have removed the party whip from Senators Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke, and John Cummins.”

Varadkar came under criticism himself when, as the country’s prime minister, he was pictured having a topless barbeque with his partner and friends at a park in Dublin in May. The incident followed an Irish government representative telling citizens not to loiter in parks or have picnics, but than Irishmen should just “do your exercise and then go home”.

The europhile Irish leader received very little media criticism for this seeming breach of his own government lockdown rules, however, in sharp contrast to the media spotlight placed on British prime minister Boris Johnson’s senior advisor, Dominic Cummings, in the same month.

Mr Cummings had travelled from London to Durham to secure backup childcare after he and his wife fell ill. After recovery, he took a test drive to see if he was fit to return home. The media and opposition stirred up a frenzy, calling for his resignation for allegedly breaching lockdown rules.

Brexiteers and conservatives branded the scandal a Brexit proxy war, with the most vocal calls for Mr Cummings’ resignation coming from the far-left and Remainer factions of Parliament and the media.

“It is clear that there are many — not all, but many, in the Remain camp particularly — who would like to see the back of him, who think Cummings going now may well aid them in getting us to extend [the Brexit transition period] beyond the end of this year,” Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had remarked at the time.

One famous case of lockdown hypocrisy came when the technocrat architect of the British government’s coronavirus strategy — and its draconian lockdown laws — broke his own rules in early May by meeting his married lover to carry on his affair. Professor Neil Ferguson resigned shortly thereafter.

In the following month, the government passed legislation interpreted as effectively making it illegal to have sex with someone you do not already live with.

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