Clifden golf dinner: Former junior minister Áine Brady apologises for attendance

Ex-TD Dr Michael Harty said going to the dinner was an error of judgement

Former junior minister Aine Brady is chief executive of Third Age, the organisation that supports older people in Ireland. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Former junior minister Aine Brady is chief executive of Third Age, the organisation that supports older people in Ireland. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Former junior minister Áine Brady has apologised for attending the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co Galway last week, describing it as a distraction from the work of her charity.

Ms Brady is chief executive of Third Age, the organisation that supports older people in Ireland.

She became the latest of the more than 80 guests at the controversial event to publicly acknowledge her error and apologise. The dinner was held by the society after it hosted two days of golf at the nearby Connemara Golf Course in Ballyconneely, Co Galway. The event was attended by several TDs and senators, along with former TDs and senators.

Ms Brady had accompanied her husband Gerry, who had played in the golf tournament, to the function in Clifden.

Third Age did not immediately supply a comment from Ms Brady when contacted but in a statement reported by the Leinster Leader, she said she wished to sincerely apologise.

“I am disappointed that my actions may have distracted from the tremendous work that the organisation does, and I will re-double my efforts to ensure that these programmes will continue to deliver positive outcomes for older people and communities in Ireland,” she said.

“I unreservedly apologise and deeply regret my attendance at last week’s event.”

Ms Brady lost her Kildare North seat in the 2011 general election, having represented the constituency as a Fianna Fail TD since 2007.

She became minister of state with responsibility for older people in April 2009 and was appointed head of Third Age 2013.

On Monday morning, another former TD, Dr Michael Harty also apologised for his attendance.

Media interviews with those at the dinner have been rare but Dr Harty told his local station Clare FM that he had made an error of judgment and did not initially suspect there was anything wrong with the event.

He said he was not aware of the changes to Covid guidelines made the day before which further limited indoor gatherings.

“I turned off completely in relation to what was going on in the outside world for two days,” he said. “I have been working hard in relation to this pandemic for the past six months since it started at the beginning of February and ya, I let my guard down.”

He said he should have known something was amiss when he walked into the room and used his common sense but he assumed the dinner was in compliance with the rules.

He explained he was not a member of the “tight knit” committee group who organised the meal and that he “certainly would have seen the dangers” if he had been.

“I walked into a trap basically. I walked into a room which looked fine; the tables were distanced. I didn’t see any difficulty.”

The former Clare independent TD and GP, said he intended to learn from his mistakes which have cost him personally and professionally.

“I acknowledge the hurt and distress that it has caused and has undermined the commitment and sacrifice that everyone has been making during this pandemic,” he said.