Michael Clifford: The reality is that golfgate struck a public nerve

Michael Clifford: The reality is that golfgate struck a public nerve

In the end, most of the big guns in the golfgate trial didn’t have to fully earn their corn. 

Before the senior counsel for three of the four defendants had a chance to make long submissions, Judge Mary Fahy declared she’d heard enough.

The fabled dinner at the Station House Hotel in Clifden had been kosher. 

The charges were dismissed. 

The Golfgate Four walked out of the court, their reputations free from stain in the eyes of the law.

“I have no doubt that the organisers, in conjunction with the owners, did all they could to comply [with public health guidelines]”, the judge ruled. 

Not in the court of public opinion, but in the court of law.” 

She went on: “As a result of this dinner, very good people lost positions and contracts, but I want to make it clear I didn’t make my decision based on that.” 

And then she was up and gone, the case which took up three precious days of district court time, and starred five leading senior counsel, was suddenly at an end. 

Everybody went home, and no doubt, some among them wondered what it was all about.

The evidence against the president of the Oireachtas Golf Society, Donie Cassidy; the captain, Noel Grealish; and the father-and-son proprietors of the hotel, John and James Sweeney, had been pretty uniform. 

Practically all of the witnesses for the prosecution, including judge Seamus Woulfe, and former minister Dara Calleary, gave evidence that went to the case for the defence. 

Former Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

All had checked before attending that things were in order. 

All had been of the opinion at the function that things were in order. 

Afterwards, all retained the same opinion, notwithstanding the fallout, the media blitz, and the wave of anger that blew across the public square. 

None of the factual aspects of the collective evidence was challenged. 

There was widespread acceptance that all were telling it as they  saw it.

Legally, the matter largely came down to a partition. 

In order to comply with the guidelines, which required any gathering to be 50 or fewer persons, a partition was set up in the function room. 

The attendance was 81, divided on each side of this barrier. 

Did this split the function in two, or was it a Chinese wall?

Dara Calleary, who resigned within 36 hours of eating his dinner that night, testified yesterday about the great divide. 

He is not a golfer and was in attendance only to pay homage to his mentor, the late Mark Killilea, in whose honour the dinner was held.

“There was a large partition, floor to ceiling,” Calleary said. 

I spoke from a rostrum and could see people but couldn’t identify anybody. A gap opened in the partition and I could see people. The gap was about my width, not sure what that is.” 

Dara Calleary is not a wide man. You wouldn’t get a half-starved bullock through the gap he was referencing.

Judge Fahy came to the conclusion that the partition really performed its designed function.

“There is a huge body of evidence here which shows … this dinner took place in two distinct areas of very large hotel that could have accommodated 200 pre-Covid,” she ruled.

“The regulations allowed 50 at any function. Here we had less in each one, there was more than 50 (in total) but in two distinctly separate areas. The evidence was most impressive.” 

She heard closing submissions from prosecuting counsel Eoghan Cole and Grealish’s counsel, fellow former Progressive Democrats

Read More

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.