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Case to open over alleged Covid-19 breaches at Golfgate event

A specially convened sitting of Galway District Court will get under way at Galway Courthouse on Thursday for the ‘Golfgate’ hearing, which is expected to take up to five days.

Independent TD Noel Grealish and former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy, along with hoteliers John Sweeney and James Sweeney, are facing charges related to organising the Oireachtas Golf Society event that happened during pandemic restrictions.

The trial of Mr Grealish from Carnmore in Galway, Mr Cassidy from the Square, Castlepollard in Westmeath, John Sweeney, owner of the hotel, and his son James, the general manager of the hotel, could take up to five days as there are 51 prosecution witnesses.

They have been summoned to appear before Judge Mary Fahy charged with organising a dinner which attracted 81 guests at the Station House Hotel, Clifden on August 19th, 2020, in breach of Covid-19 regulations in force at the time which limited indoor gatherings to no more than 50 people.

They are charged with organising or causing to organise an event for cultural, entertainment, recreation, sporting, social, community or educational reasons in a relevant geographical location, and as a result did contravene a regulation made under Section 31A (1) of the Health Act 1947, as amended, to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19, contrary to Section 31A (6) (a) and (12) of the Health Act 1947, as amended by Section 10 of the Health (Prevention and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020.

The alleged breach attracts a maximum tariff of €2,500 and/or up to six months in prison on conviction.

Mr Cassidy was president and Mr Grealish was captain of the Oireachtas Golf Society at the time of the event.

The hearing was scheduled to take place in the District Court courtroom, where Judge Fahy normally presides, but as that courtroom can only accommodate 19 people due to Covid restrictions, it was decided on Wednesday evening to move across the hall to the larger Circuit Court courtroom, which can accommodate 29 socially-distanced people.

Only those directly involved in the case will be allowed into the court.

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