What is golfgate? Ireland's political scandal explained

What is golfgate? Ireland's political scandal explained

UNLESS YOU'VE been living under a rock in the middle of the ocean, you've probably heard the term 'golfgate' this week.

Easily the biggest scandal to hit the new Irish government, and one where the consequences are still unfolding, golfgate is the word which has featured on countless headlines in Ireland-- and across the world-- this week.

But what exactly is it?

What is golfgate?

Goflgate is the name given to the two-day event organised by the Oireachtas Golf Society and held in the Station House Hotel in Clifden.

The event was attended by 82 people, including top politicians and a Supreme Court Judge. It involved two days of golf and a formal dinner reception.

The Irish Examiner broke the story on Thursday evening last, and new information has continued to emerge since.

The Station House Hotel in Clifden, Connemara, where the golf dinner took place (Image: Station House Hotel )

Who was there?

Minister for Agriculture, Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary was first thrust into the spotlight for being one of the most high-profile figures there.

Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe was also in attendance, as was EU Commissioner Phil Hogan.

Other notable people on the guest list included RTÉ broadcaster Sean O'Rourke, TD Noel Grealish, Senator Paul Daly, Senator Niall Blaney, former Senator Cáit Keane, Moroccan Ambassador Lahcen Mahroui, former senator Lorraine Higgins, former Senator and TD Gerry Reynolds, former Senator Imelda Henry, and Circuit Court judge Pat McCartan.

Why is golfgate so controversial?

The event took place the day after new restrictions were introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland.

These restrictions included no more than six people allowed to gather indoors, and 15 outdoors, with some exceptions allowed in cases of weddings or religious services.

Some of those present had been in the meeting with the National Public Health Emergency Team where the new restrictions had been suggested, and the Supreme Court Judge had helped sign the initial lockdown restrictions into law.

The event also took place in Galway on an evening where there was an Orange Weather Warning in place.

Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary resigned from his position following public backlash

What were the consequences for those who attended?

An Garda Síochána have launched an investigation into the event, focusing on the organisers rather than the individuals who have attended.

Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary resigned from his position following the public backlash, and Senator Jerry Buttimer also resigned as vice-chairman of the senate.

RTÉ broadcaster Sean O'Rourke will no longer work with the national broadcaster, the company said in a statement.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, removed the party whip from senators Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke and John Cummins, all of whom were in attendance, "in recognition of the seriousness of this matter".

And Taoiseach Micheál Martin also removed the Fianna Fáil whip from senators Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt and Niall Blaney.

Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe is under review by the Irish Supreme Court, which will examine whether he shold have accepted the invitation to dinner or the preceding golf event with TDs and senators.

It will also look at whether he had a duty to leave the hotel when he saw how many people had gathered there.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan was asked to supply the President of the European Commissioner with his movements from the time he arrived in Ireland, and a decision will be made on his future with the EU.

Commissioner Hogan has found himself embroiled in further controversy after he was found not to have properly self-isolated for 14 days upon his arrival from Brussels, visited locked-down Kildare multiple times, and was stopped by a Garda for driving while on the phone-- you can read more about that here.

EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan still faces questions over his movements in Ireland (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

What happens next?

Following the scandal, the Taoiseach announced that the Dáil will be recalled from the summer recess next Wednesday, one week earlier than planned.

This, his office said in a statement, is to coincide with schools reopening, however the Government will face many questions regarding golfgate and the consequences for those who attended.

The Dáil will also have to vote for a new Minister for Agriculture-- the third since the new Government was formed, as Taoiseach Micheál Martin is currently presiding over the role.

A decision on any potential consequences for Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan will be made in the coming days.