Judge in Clifden adjourns ‘Golfgate’ court case until October 28th

Independent TD Noel Grealish and former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy face charges

The Oireachtas Golf Society dinner at the Station House Hotel in Clifden  took place at a time of strict Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

The Oireachtas Golf Society dinner at the Station House Hotel in Clifden took place at a time of strict Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

 

The case against two prominent politicians and two hoteliers over their alleged role in organising a golf dinner during Covid restrictions last summer has been adjourned until October.

None of the four men appeared during a brief hearing which lasted less than five minutes before Clifden District Court in Co Galway on Thursday morning but all four were legally represented.

The court was told that the case could take three days if it goes to a full hearing.

They were summoned in relation to an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner which took place at the Station House Hotel in the Connemara town last August.

Independent TD Noel Grealish (55) from Carnmore in Galway and former Fianna Fail senator Donie Cassidy (75) from The Square, Castlepollard in Westmeath, were summoned before the court.

John Sweeney (60), owner of the Station House Hotel in Clifden, and his son James (32), the general manager of the hotel, were also before the court on a similar summons.

The four face a similar summons that on August 19th, 2020 they organised, or caused to be organised, an event that contravened a penal provision of a regulation made under Section 31A (1) of the Health Act 1947 as amended, to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.

The offence, contrary to Section 31A(6)(a) and (12) of the Health Act 1947 (as amended by Section 10 of the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020), is punishable by a fine of up to €2,500 and/or six months in prison.

The Oireachtas Golf Society dinner, which was attended by about 80 people, took place at a time when the country was under Level 3 of the Government’s Covid-19 plan during which indoor gatherings of more than 50 people were banned.

Mr Grealish was captain of the Oireachtas Golf Society at the time of the event and Mr Cassidy was president.

Resigned

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan, Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary, and leas cathaoirleach of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer, all resigned their positions last year after attending the function.

Solicitor JJ Mannion, acting on behalf of Mr Cassidy and Mr Grealish’s solicitor Shane McSweeney, requested a disclosure order for statements in relation to his clients.

Solicitor Gerry Allen, acting on behalf of the Sweeneys, made a similar disclosure order for statements.

Barrister John Berry, instructed by the Galway State solicitor William Kennedy, said there was no difficulty with the disclosure orders and suggested an adjournment to the September sitting of Clifden District Court. He said that the case could take three days to be heard.

Judge Marie Keane was informed by Mr Mannion, who is based in Clifden, that the September sitting is usually very busy as it is the annual licensing court and he suggested an adjournment to October.

She adjourned the matter to October 28th for mention only and to fix a hearing date.