Coronavirus video ‘joke’ prompts apology from Johnny Ronan

Developer and former Olympian Philip Cassidy draw ire across social media

Developer Johnny Ronan and former Olympian Philip Cassidy apologised on Wednesday after a video showing them joking in a South African bar about coronavirus sparked anger on social media.

Mr Cassidy shot the video in late February, before any Covid-19 cases were diagnosed in Ireland, and while many were unaware of the disease's lethal impact.

Filmed during a trip to Cape Town, it shows Mr Ronan coughing into a napkin before joining three women in front of a Corona beer sign, where he declares "I feel much better". Later he makes a facemask with a napkin and his sunglasses.

Mr Ronan apologised unreservedly for appearing to make light of coronavirus in a video intended for sharing with a small group of friends.

‘Devastating impact’

“This video in no way represents how I think about the virus and the devastating impact it has had, and continues to have on individuals, on families, on society and on the global economy,” he said.

Mr Cassidy said he deeply regretted the video which did not reflect his view of the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Cassidy, a former Irish Olympic cyclist and FBD Rás winner, explained that it was aimed at Corona beer, which was the butt of jokes at the time.

The video sparked anger on social media, where it only began circulating this week. Photographer Padraig O’Reilly, one of several who commented on it, called it “disappointing” and “shocking”.

‘Speedy recovery’

Mr Ronan and Mr Cassidy were in Cape Town for a cycling trip that coincided with the Argus Cycle Race in the South African city. The women in the video were part of the group.

The property developer stressed he had nothing but admiration for all those battling Covid-19.

“I offer my thoughts and sincere apologies to them, to those who have lost loved ones to the disease, and I wish all those suffering from coronavirus a full and speedy recovery,” he said.

In the Dail, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett referred to the video as “obnoxious” and accused Mr Ronan of mocking people with Covid-19.

He said Mr Ronan was “a Celtic Tiger property developer who got all his Nama land back from us, his name plastered over development sites all over the city making an absolute fortune while people are people are suffering from homelessness”.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O’Fearghail reminded him it was out of order to name somebody who was not in the Dail but Mr Boyd Barrett said the property developer was “mocking people with Covid and making light of the work of our nurses”.