Hotel event involving Zappone and Varadkar did not breach guidelines, says Fine Gael TD
“I haven’t examined the report in the papers that extensively, but my understanding was that it was an outdoor event."
A Fine Gael TD has defended a private outdoor function held at the Merrion Hotel by Katherine Zappone which was attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, saying he did not believe it had breached any guidelines.
An Irish Independent report on Wednesday said Zappone held a function with around 50 friends and former colleagues in the days before she was appointed appointed special UN envoy on freedom of opinion and expression.
The current regulations from Fáilte Ireland on hotels and guesthouses state that “organised events, indoor and outdoor, are not permitted” unless they are weddings or “non-social meetings, training and educational programmes considered essential to the operation of a business”.
However, Fáilte Ireland's guidelines for reopening pubs and restaurants states in the "Organised Outdoor Events/Gatherings" section that a "maximum of 200 attendees can attend the majority of venues. A limit of 500 people is in place for venues with capacity greater than 5,000 with appropriate protective measures in place."
Speaking to Newstalk on Wednesday morning, Fine Gael TD for Cork North-Central, Colm Burke, said he did not believe that any regulations had been breached as it was an outdoor event.
“I’m not sure where you’re saying there’s breach of guidelines, there was an outdoor event as I understand it,” he told Newstalk radio.
“I haven’t examined the report in the papers that extensively, but my understanding was that it was an outdoor event. My understanding is that Leo Varadkar checked with the hotel.
"My understanding is that up to 200 people can attend an outdoor event, at the time that was the regulation that was there.
"I haven't checked the regulations, you've asked me the question, I haven't had the opportunity of reading the report extensively.
"My understanding is that the hotel advised that they were within the regulations."
Burke stipulated that if there was a breach of guidelines it would put Zappone "at risk", however, it must be confirmed if there was a breach first.
In a statement, the Merrion Hotel said it had adhered to public health guidelines at all times throughout the event.
“Government regulations at the time allowed for outdoor events of up to 200 people, and the definition of that includes social events," the hotel said in a statement.
"This upper limit still applies, except now indoor events in hotels are excluded per government guidelines published by Fáilte Ireland.”