by Miceál O’Hurley
Given the furor in the aftermath of so many of Ireland’s elected, rich and powerful attending the Oireachtas Golf Tournament in Clifden, Co. Galway, a Cabinet Minister, leaders from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, a former Attorney General now Justice of the Supreme Court, as well as an EU Commissioner have be called to account for their attendance at a golf outing and dinner in which An Garda Síochána are now investigating for breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
The soiree arguably gave every public appearance that the Covid-19 restrictions imposed for public health and safety reasons don’t apply to the elected or privileged classes and as a result, every politician in attendance, the Supreme Court Justice and EU Commission have felt it necessary to release public statements of apology. As a consequence of attending the event the newly appointed Cabinet Minister for Agriculture, Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary has had to resign. Six Members of Seanad Éireann, including three Fine Gael Senators Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke and John Cummins as well as three Fianna Fail Senators, Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt and Niall Blaney have all had the Whip removed, effectively placing them outside of their respective Parties.
Non-elected officials, including Supreme Court Justice Seamus Woulfe are also facing growing calls for their resignation or dismissal from office. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Susan Denham has requested a report on her colleague’s attendance at the event with a view towards discipline if not expulsion. This week, EC president Ursula von der Leyen has signaled her intent to review the EU Trade Commissioner’s tenure after having attended the golf tournament after both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have called on Commissioner Phil Hogan to ‘consider his position’.
Amidst all the public furor, and official demands for enquiry in which the attendees’ continued hold on office hangs in the balance one guest has yet to account for his name appearing on the invitation list – His Excellency Mr. Lahcen Mahraoui, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Last week’s release of images of the official invitation list for the Oireachtas Golf Tournament reads like a veritable litany of Ireland’s rich, powerful and elected. Yet the one attendee that seems somewhat out-of-place on the list of Irish notables was that of Ambassador Mahraoui of Morocco, the only prominent non-Irish guest on the list. According to the invitation and seating list Ambassador Mahraoui was seated at Table 5 along with no less than Supreme Court Justice Woulfe, Senator and Mrs. Daly, Maura O’Connor – Lady President of the Oireachtas Golf Society, former Labour Party Senator Lorraine Higgins and Galway Businessman John Sweeney and his wife, Treena.
In the face of public demand for both knowledge and accountability in the aftermath of apparently grievous flouting of Covid-19 regulations it becomes incumbent on His Excellency Mr. Lahcen Mahraoui to make a statement for the record about his name appearing on the invitation list and whether or not he attended the event and what, if any, precautions he observed concerning Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Government to satisfy himself the event was safe to attend. Embassies are not exempt from complying with Covid-19 restrictions and information on the restrictions have been made available to each Embassy by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Embassies such as the United States Embassy in Dublin have published the guidelines on their web sites, including information regarding public gatherings and the penalties for non-compliance as follows: “The penalty on conviction for not abiding by Irish regulations, including wearing a face covering, is up to €2,500 (nearly $3,000) and/or 6 months in prison.”
Given that all attendees in Irish public life have made statements to the media about their attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Dinner and have faced some type of censure or are officially having their tenure reviewed there is growing clamour for the Moroccan Ambassador to speak to the issues regarding his attendance at the event. Diplomat Ireland contacted His Excellency Mr. Mahraoui but neither several emails or telephone calls were returned. The Department of Foreign Affairs Press Office declined to make any statement, instead referring Diplomat Ireland back to Ambassador Mahraoui and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco for comment.