Leo Varadkar says he tried to be "extra careful" while attending Katherine Zappone's 50 person function at hotel 1 month ago

Leo Varadkar says he tried to be "extra careful" while attending Katherine Zappone's 50 person function at hotel

"I accept that mistakes were made in the manner in which Dr Zappone was appointed a Special Envoy and regret the controversy it's caused."

Leo Varadkar has said that he tried to be "extra careful" while attending the 50 person function hosted by Katherine Zappone at a five star hotel just days before her appointment as Special Envoy.

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In a statement on Wednesday, Varadkar said that he "confirmed in advance" that the event which was attended by civil servants, politicians and friends, was compliant with Covid-19 guidelines.

However, Fáilte Ireland’s guidelines for reopening 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”.

"On 21 July I attended an outdoor gathering on the grounds of the Merrion Hotel at the invitation of former Minister Dr Katherine Zappone. I confirmed in advance directly with her, and with the hotel management on arrival, that the event was compliant with Covid regulations."

He added that he was at the "entirely outdoor" event for roughly "45 minutes" before returning to work.

"I was present for about 45 minutes, spoke to Dr Zappone briefly and listened to her speech before returning to work. The event took place entirely outdoors," he continued.

"I always strive to adhere to Covid restrictions and as a public representative I try to be extra careful in that regard."

"Government regulations permit organised outdoor gatherings and events of up to 200 people. There were 50 people present. The definition in the regulations includes social events as well as recreational, exercise, cultural, entertainment, or community events.

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"I am confident these regulations were not breached. This matter has been checked with the Attorney General."

Varadkar also added that he "accepts that mistakes were made" in the appointment on Zappone as Special Envoy.

He added: "I accept that mistakes were made in the manner in which Dr Zappone was appointed a Special Envoy and regret the controversy it's caused."

Zappone confirmed on Wednesday that she will not accept the appointment as Special Envoy on freedom of opinion and expression in a statement that failed to address a 50-person function held days before the announcement of the appointment.

Zappone issued the statement on the same day it was reported that she hosted a private outdoor function attended by the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and around 50 other people.

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The Merrion Hotel had earlier issued a statement to the Irish Independent, saying 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 statement read.

"This upper limit still applies, except now indoor events in hotels are excluded per government guidelines published by Fáilte Ireland.