Fine Gael Senator says guidelines were breached but the law wasn't broken at Merrion Gate 2 months ago

Fine Gael Senator says guidelines were breached but the law wasn't broken at Merrion Gate

"So it was lawful but it didn't meet the guidelines, is that what you're saying?"

A Fine Gael Senator has said that while guidelines were breached, the law was not during an event organised by Katherine Zappone at the Merrion Hotel and attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

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Speaking on Prime Time on Thursday night, Sean Kyne - a former government chief whip - was asked by presenter Mark Coughlan about the gathering.

Kyne said that regulations came into effect on 5 July that made the event organised by Zappone legal.

He added that the government communication on the matter had been “very poor, or didn’t happen at all, if you like”.

"I appreciate that but the fact of the matter is the law is there and the law clearly states that the events that took place at the Merrion Hotel was lawful," Kyne said.

Coughlan then asked, "So it was lawful but it didn't meet the guidelines, is that what you're saying?"

Kyne replied, "That's basically it."

Coughlan continued on to ask if the guidelines had been breached, to which Kyne confirmed that was, indeed, the case.

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Katherine Zappone hosted a private outdoor function attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and around 50 other people at the Merrion Hotel, just days before she was appointed UN special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression.

She has since said she will not be taking the position.

Varadkar has yet to comment on the matter beyond a brief statement saying he was at the event for 45 minutes and spoke to Zappone before returning to work. He added that he accepted mistakes were made in the manner in which Zappone was initially appointed as a special envoy and regretted the controversy it caused.

The Attorney General clarified on Tuesday the event was not in breach of the regulations that were in place at the time, and said that outdoor events of up to 200 people are permitted to take place.

The CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) Adrian Cummins said on Wednesday that the hospitality sector "didn't know until yesterday" that 200 people were permitted to gather outdoors for social reasons.

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"We welcome the announcement because it gives us extra capacity and extra revenue opportunity," Cummins said.