Gardaí visit Ballymaloe Cookery School over classes during lockdown

Darina Allen’s Cork school insists it did not breach Covid-19 restrictions

Darina Allen during a demonstration at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Photograph: Eric Luke

Darina Allen during a demonstration at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Photograph: Eric Luke


Ballymaloe Cookery School in east Cork said it believed it had an “obligation” to nine international students who had come to Ireland before the December Covid-19 lockdown for a cookery course.

Following a complaint, gardaí are now examining whether the school run by chef Darina Allen broke Covid-19 regulations in running cookery courses during Level 5 lockdown.

Gardaí called to the Shanagarry school after a complaint was made following a report in the Irish Daily Star, and the school agreed to cease its €12,000-a-head courses “while gardaí complete their inquiries”, a Garda spokeswoman said.

Insisting that it had not breached the rules, Ballymaloe said the students had arrived before the lockdown was ordered, and then entered a “bubble” in Ballymaloe, without outside contact.

“The students, and all the staff, have been meticulous about everything, from the 5km travel restrictions to the social distancing. We know that one slip could make a difference to everybody,” Ms Allen told the Irish Examiner.

“We have nine in a kitchen that would normally have 20. And we have cancelled all other courses,” she said, adding that the students would make arrangements to travel home as soon as it was safe to do so.

Classes ceased

Under Level 5 guidelines, hotels can only open for “essential non-social and non-tourist purposes”. Organised indoor and outdoor gatherings are banned, too, while restaurants are also closed.

Some of the students, from the US, the Netherlands and the UK, had booked the courses months, if not years, in advance. Usually 60 students attend courses each time they are held.

“Having taken into consideration their unique and difficult situation and our isolated location, we offered them the option to join our ‘Ballymaloe bubble’ once they had completed their 14-day quarantine and agreed to adhere to our very strict lockdown rules,” said the school.

“We are confident that we made the right decision under the circumstances at the time and given our duty of care,” it said, “However, we are aware of concerns expressed recently and so have decided to cease the classes.”