The government says it is seeking to clarify the rules on outdoor events following controversy over a rally hosted by former minister Katherine Zappone.
The guidelines on outdoor events will need to be updated “to ensure people have clarity” on gatherings, the government conceded.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the government press office said the attorney general’s opinion was that organized events and rallies could take place for up to 200 people “including social, recreational, sports, cultural, entertainment or community “.
“Further updates will be made to the guidelines to ensure that people are clearly aware of how organized outdoor events can work in the future.”
The statement follows Dr Zappone’s decision to step down from her role as Special Envoy for Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Expression.
The move follows days of controversy over the mode of his appointment, which took a new turn on Wednesday when it appeared in an Irish Independent article that Dr Zappone had organized a social event for 50 people at Merrion Dublin Hotel.
The hotel said the rally was conducted in accordance with guidelines for such events.
However, the issue has sparked debate over the different interpretations of the government’s public health advice.
On Wednesday, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell pitted Ms Zappone’s event against the treatment of first communions and confirmations.
“You know, it’s good to have a party at the Merrion Hotel with 50 people in attendance. But yet, it is not possible for a parent to take their child with them to receive the sacrament, ”he told RTÉ Radio One.
Tánaist Leo Varadkar confirmed in a statement that he was one of those who attended the outdoor rally on the grounds of the Merrion Hotel at the invitation of Dr Zappone.
“I confirmed in advance directly with her, and with the hotel management on arrival, that the event complied with Covid regulations. I was present for about 45 minutes, spoke briefly to Dr Zappone and listened to his speech before returning to work. The event took place entirely outdoors.
“I always strive to adhere to the Covid restrictions and as a representative of the public I try to be very careful in this regard,” Mr Varadkar said.
“Government regulations allow the organization of gatherings and outdoor events for up to 200 people. There were about fifty people present. The definition in the regulation includes social events as well as recreational, exercise, cultural, entertainment or community events.
“I am convinced that these regulations were not broken. This case was verified with the Attorney General.
“As the government statement has already said, further updates will be made to the guidelines to ensure people are clear about how future outdoor events can work.
“I accept that mistakes were made in the way Dr Zappone was appointed Special Envoy and I regret the controversy this has caused.”
TD Labor Party Ivana Bacik has confirmed that she is also among 50 participants in the event.
She told The Irish Times that she was “briefly present for about 15/20 minutes at an outdoor event hosted by Katherine Zappone on July 21 which I understood was within the guidelines.”
Under the regulations, a “relevant event”, meaning “an event organized … for social, sporting, cultural, entertainment or community reasons” can be organized if reasonable steps are taken to guarantee that everything takes place outside to exceed 500 in a relevant place or 200 in a place “other than a relevant place” and it is “a scheduled event”, the government said in its statement on Wednesday .
However, the regulations explicitly state that events held in homes, wedding receptions, sporting events or training events are not included.
Fianna Fáil senator Timmy Dooley was among those who called for more clarity on Wednesday.
“If, on the one hand, an elite group of seniors from all over society can come together for a 50’s garden party at a five star hotel in Dublin, how can you tell my neighbor from East Clare that they cannot have their child confirmed? or make their communion, and cannot have a number of family members in their garden for refreshments or even in the garden of a local hotel, restaurant or pub? He asked, saying the same would apply to funerals.
Earlier, the hospitality industry said it would seek clarification on outdoor gatherings at hospitality venues during a meeting with government officials on Wednesday, after news of the event broke. been published.
Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson, said on Wednesday his interpretation of the spirit of the guidelines was that these types of events were not allowed and that local sports organizations had “shouted” for organize fundraisers that would have been similar in size and character to Ms. Zappone’s event.
“Full details of the event must be released before people vote on compliance with the event’s rules,” he said, but argued that the background to Ms Zappone’s appointment in as a special envoy should also be taken into account. Account.
Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) CEO Adrian Cummins said Fáilte Ireland needed to clarify the situation regarding outdoor gatherings, he added.
“We are all under extreme pressure to comply with public health guidelines,” he told RTÉ Radio.
There were questions that needed to be answered about the event Dr Zappone hosted, he said, such as the food and drinks served. “We need all the facts on the table.”
Several tables could not be reserved as directed, he said.
The RAI received calls from companies fearing that they would have to turn down business. “We want to make sure we’re all on the same page, that we all understand what’s acceptable,” he said.
The entire industry needed to be clear on public health guidelines. “We want to protect public health at all times. The clarity would ensure that such confusion does not happen again, he said and he will seek this clarification from Fáilte Ireland in a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.