Golfgate trial to continue next month at Galway District Court

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credit: Robert Linsdell CC BY 2.0 'The Courthouse, Courthouse Square, Galway'

The trial surrounding the events of the Oireachtas Golf Society ‘golfgate’ dinner will conclude in early February.

The prosecution had yet to conclude presenting its case after two days of hearing before a specially convened sitting of Galway District Court this week.

Galway TD Noel Grealish, former Senator Donie Cassidy, and hoteliers John and James Sweeney are charged with organising or allowing to be organised an event that breached health regulations at the Station House Hotel on August 19, 2020.

Judge Mary Fahy said that the next block of dates available to her are on February 3-4, when the case will resume.

Eoghan Cole BL for the state said that he expects that there will be lengthy legal presentations made to the court after the prosecution concludes its case.

The court ended on Friday during the evidence of Inspector Peter Conlon, who oversaw the investigation as the then Acting Superintendent for the Salthill-Clifden area.

He had yet to finish presenting his evidence, and Mr Cole said that it is also expected that there will be significant cross-examination once he does so.

He said that he became aware of the event of the golf society event on August 21, and heard that it may have been in breach of COVID regulations.

Two other Gardaí had attended the Station House Hotel and received information about the event from John and James Sweeney.

Inspector Conlon said that he sought further information about the event from them, but that the response was that, based on legal advice, they would not be providing further information.

He also wrote to Noel Grealish and Donie Cassidy in September seeking further information regarding potential breaches of the Health Act.

Mr Cassidy wrote back to Inspector Conlon on October 15 outlining the events of the evening. He said that he had met with the hotel management before that the event, and contacted the Irish Hotels Federation to clarify the regulations.

A week prior to the event he and Noel Grealish had travelled to the hotel to view the venue to ensure it was suitable, he said in the correspondence.

The correspondence with Inspector Conlon also included lengthy information about the tightening of restrictions on gatherings while this event was ongoing, and advice issued by the IHF regarding it.

This broadly stated that due to the time-lag between government announcements and the proper introduction of new restrictions, the protocol with the department of tourism was that the status quo should remain until updated guidance is issued.

Mr. Cole said that there was no suggestion that the reduced capacity of six people in at gatherings applied to this event.

Mr. Grealish made a statement to Gardaí saying that he had been the outgoing captain of the club when he travelled with Mr. Cassidy to Ballyconneely to plan his captain’s day event.

Afterwards he said that the two of them went to the Station House hotel, where Cassidy planned to hold his president’s day event.

Mr. Grealish said in his statement that he had no responsibility in relation to organising this event, and had no dealings with hotel management.

On the morning of August 19 he said that he raised concerns with Mr Cassidy about the newly announced restrictions.

Mr. Cassidy spoke with the IHF, and informed him that the current measures remained in place until new restrictions have been properly introduced and guidance issued.

Earlier in the day the court heard from Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe, who spoke at length about “ambiguities” in the hastily put together regulations, for which guidelines went into detail.

Fine Gael Senator Gerry Buttimer and former Senator Lorraine Higgins also gave evidence. The court also heard from multiple staff at the Station House hotel about the events of that evening.