Mea Minima Culpa – Politicians, Rubber Chicken, and Pandemics

So, 81 people attended a Golf Society event in a hotel in Clifden during a time when the country was losing control again on a pandemic, largely through community transmission.

At the time, the public health REGULATIONS (not guidance) were that events like this could permit a maximum of 50 people.

Weddings had been cancelled. Christenings postponed. Family reunions put on the long finger. But this Golf Society held its event regardless. In the time period that the event happened, three counties were put on ‘local lockdown’, embuggering local businesses who were just starting to get back on their feet.

That’s bad. It gets worse.

The Golf Society was the Golf Society of the Oireachtas, the parliament that had recently passed the very regulations that the legislation contravened. It was attended by a Government Minister (who sat at Cabinet and received the briefings from the National Public Health Emergency Team), an EU Commissioner, a former Attorney General (now a Supreme Court Judge) who had been involved in drafting the regulations that this event contravened. We also had a gaggle of Senators, and the CEO of the Irish Banking Federation.

Naturally, when the Irish Examiner broke the story, the people of Ireland were a bit annoyed (bear in mind, we call the Second World War an “Emergency”). Even the childhood favourite of middle-aged (good grief, I am middle aged now) people around Ireland, Bosco, found it necessary to comment on the ludicrousness of the situation.

If Grownups don’t do what they are supposed to do how can they expect everyone else to behave

Bosco, @boscoofficial on Twitter

Today, we awake to:

  • A Government Minister resigning as a Minister (the second Minister for Agriculture to resign in as many months)
  • A wave of form letter apologies on social media from other politicians who attended the event.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea minima culpa

Every TD and Senator who attended the Golf Society dinner apologizing on Twitter this morning

The apologies are meaningless as they:

  1. Follow a suspiciously similar structure and phrasing
  2. Cite the confusion about the new public health guidance that have come into effect this week, which glosses over the fact that the gathering was illegal under the regulations that existed at the time
  3. Apologise for any offence or upset that was caused.

It is wonderful how humility can be found in the WhatsApp group of a PR handler but a backbone to actually consider the public health regulations and decide to forego attending an event that might breach public health restrictions.

The details of the event are apparently that there was a partition between groups in the venue. This gives us a supremely jesuitical position that there were actually two separate events of 46 and 35 people respectively, well under the 50 person limit. But they shared catering staff, the parties on the other side of the partition were able to take part in the “main event” and were referenced in speeches etc. it is reported. It is an arguable position legally, but a non-starter optically and morally.

It turns out that it was not Alexander Hamilton in the room where it happened, but rather A Large Partition. But Irish political leaders should know from history that introducing a partition into the equation as a workaround for an intractable difficulty just causes more problems.

Bosco called it clearly. If the grownups can’t follow the rules how can they expect the rest of us to. This whole situation is Brazen, Offensive, Stupid, Callous, and Objectionable. It’s gone the Full BOSCO, particularly when elected representatives apologies for the upset they have caused and not for the vainglorious double standard they have applied to respecting restrictions designed to curtail the spread of a serious public health threat.

Of course, the Minister and other grandees were probably in the big room at the big table. Spare a thought for the poor souls on the other side of the partition at the kids’s tables who are today facing the same anger and frustration from colleagues and constituents. If the erection of a partition to sub-divide the attendees at a single event turns out to be a valid defence legally it will mean that they were at the kids’ table, outside the room where it happened. And if this turns out to be a legally valid defence (and someone can surely ask the opinion of the former AG and current Supreme Court judge on that point), then it will be a further kick in the teeth to families who have cancelled weddings, birthdays, christenings, and other events because of restrictions on numbers.

And spare a thought for the front-line healthcare workers who have been battling this pandemic either on the wards or in the labs. This whole event is a kick in the face for them and their families.

We are all in this together. But some of us are more in it than others.


Brazen, Offensive, Stupid, Callous, Objectionable.