DUBLIN — Two Irish politicians who organized the parliamentary golfing event that claimed the political scalp of former EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan will be prosecuted for flouting coronavirus restrictions, local police confirmed Wednesday.
The politicians — sitting independent lawmaker Noel Grealish and former Senator Donie Cassidy of Fianna Fáil — are among four organizers facing charges connected to the August 19 dinner at a County Galway hotel organized for current and former members of the Oireachtas, Ireland’s parliament.
About 80 people — including Hogan, an Irish Cabinet minister and a Supreme Court justice — attended the dinner a few days after the government toughened COVID-19 policies. This included introducing a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 50 people.
Cassidy is president of the Oireachtas Golf Society, Grealish its captain. Police declined to identify the other two organizers. Each could potentially face fines of up to €2,500 and six months in prison, though the latter is considered highly unlikely.
Cassidy said he has yet to receive a summons but would “vigorously defend” any charges laid against him. Grealish did not respond to requests for comment.
Hogan sat at the top table beside Grealish and then-Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary, who resigned from his Cabinet post immediately after the pandemic violations were reported by Irish media. Cassidy resigned as vice president of the governing party Fianna Fáil.
Hogan, however, had initially resisted calls to quit as EU trade commissioner even after Irish government leaders called on him to go.
He eventually stepped down under pressure from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after being accused of breaching pandemic controls during other points of his August travels in Ireland. These violations included trips in and out of a higher-risk zone to visit his holiday home at the K Club, the resort that hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup.
Invitations to the two-day event sent in Grealish’s name, seen by POLITICO, made no mention of any COVID-19 protocols for the event. It detailed two golfing competitions, including what it called “a four-ball Singles Stableford Champagne Scrambled Competition. Each players tee shot must be played 3 times. I am taking tee-time bookings. Members may invite a guest.”
The senior judge, Séamus Woulfe, faced withering criticism from Supreme Court colleagues but kept his job after professing faith in the organizers’ ability to observe the latest pandemic rules.