Golfgate trial continues next month in Galway District Court

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Credit: Robert Linsdell CC BY 2.0 ‘The Courthouse, Courthouse Square, Galway’

The process of organizing the “Golfgate” dinner of the Oireachtas Golf Society will be completed in early February.

Prosecutors had pending a two-day hearing ahead of a specially convened Galway District Court session this week to bring their case.

Galway TD Noel Grealish, former Senator Donie Cassidy and hoteliers John and James Sweeney are instructed to organize or have organized an event at the Station House Hotel on August 19, 2020 that violates health regulations.

Judge Mary Fahy said the next block of appointments will be on February 3rd and 4th if the case is reopened.

Eoghan Cole BL for the state said he expected long legal presentations to be made in court after the indictment was completed.

The court ended Friday during the taking of evidence from Inspector Peter Conlon, who was then Deputy Superintendent for the Salthill-Clifden Area.

He had yet to produce his evidence, and Mr. Cole said that it is also expected that there will be a major cross-examination afterwards.

He said he became aware of the event at the Golf Society’s August 21 event and heard that it may have violated COVID regulations.

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

Inspector Conlon said he was asking for more information from them about the event, but the response was that they would not provide any further information due to legal advice.

He also wrote to Noel Grealish and Donie Cassidy in September asking for more information about possible health law violations.

Mr. Cassidy wrote back to Inspector Conlon on October 15 outlining the evening’s events. He said he met with management prior to the event and reached out to the Irish Hotels Federation to clarify the rules.

A week before the event, he and Noel Grealish had traveled to the hotel to tour the venue to make sure it was suitable, he said in the correspondence.

The correspondence with Inspector Conlon also contained detailed information about the tightening of the meeting restrictions during this event and advice from the IHF in this regard.

It broadly states that due to the lag between government announcements and the proper implementation of new restrictions, the protocol with the Ministry of Tourism stipulated that the status quo should be maintained until updated guidelines are issued.

Mr. Cole said there was no indication that the reduced capacity of six people at gatherings applies to this event.

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

He then said the two went to the Station House Hotel, where Cassidy had planned to hold his presidential event.

Mr Grealish said in his statement that he had no responsibility regarding the organization of this event and had no business with the hotel management.

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

Mr Cassidy spoke to the IHF and informed him that the current measures would remain in place until new restrictions were properly introduced and guidelines issued.

The court had previously heard Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe, who spoke at length about “ambiguities” in the hastily compiled rules for which the guidelines went into detail.

Fine Gael Senator Gerry Buttimer and former Senator Lorraine Higgins also testified. The court also heard about the events of that evening from several staff at the Station House Hotel.


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