Oireachtas Golf Society: Ireland's "Dominic Cummings" moment

When the UK Government's Chief Advisor, Dominic Cummings, went on a 200 mile road trip to Durham with his family last May, he went against his own advice issued by the government. The country was told not to travel unless absolutely necessary, and to stay at home if they suspected they'd covid-19 symptoms. He justified this trip by saying he needed to isolate after both he and his son displayed symptoms. The symptoms were later proved to be non-covid-19 related, but this was enough for him to drive to a cottage on his father's estate. Our Prime Minister didn't see this as breaking the lockdown rules, but a later "minor breach" did occur. Dominic Cummings drove his wife to Barnard Castle some 30 miles away on her birthday, apparently to see if his eyesight was safe to drive back to London.

The reaction of the UK public, and some of Boris's and Dominic's supporters, was overwhelmingly negative. As a direct result, the UK public's attention to the lockdown rules changed. It was understandable and inevitable when millions of folk had endured mental and financial hardship during the lockdown, only to see a special case being made for the privileged few. Why should health workers have to live away from their families to protect themselves from the virus? Why should elderly relatives not be able to see their son or daughter? Why shouldn't you be able to travel the ten miles to see your boyfriend / girlfriend for the evening?

The saga of Dominic Cumming's trip and subsequent explanation beggared belief. He got away with a mild slap on the wrist, and told not to be a such a naughty boy ever again. Still, it couldn't happen again, could it? Surely people in positions of power would have taken note?

Well obviously not in Ireland!

On 19th August, 81 guests attended a dinner at the Oireachtas Golf Club in Co.Galway, in direct violation of the country's lockdown rules. At that time indoor gatherings were limited to six people from no more than three households. Among the great and the good who attended were:

  • A number of high-profile Oireachtas club members.
  • Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Trade.
  • Séamus Woulfe, a Supreme Court judge.
The fallout from this event is still ongoing, but to date has resulted in a number of political resignations including that of Phil Hogan.
Phil Hogan
The astonishing thing about both Dominic Cummings and the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner, is what was going through the minds of the individuals who took part. How did they think that what they were doing was either right or in the spirit of the rules. What's more, did they even consider what damage it could do politically and socially if they were discovered. Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing, Dominic Cummings certainly did, or maybe they just felt the rules didn't apply to them. In Dominic Cummings case, it was arguably a bit of both, and in the case of those at the golf club dinner, the latter.

The end result of these misdemeanors is still ongoing. Some have lost their jobs. Others have lost the respect of the public. Hopefully no one associated with either event suffered any covid-19 symptoms, but it is the reaction of the public that is most at risk. If folk relax their guard against this dreadful virus, we could once again suffer a total lockdown, see the economy nosedive into totally uncharted territory, see millions join the unemployed, and tens of thousands die or suffer longer term ill health as a result of catching the virus.

Now that is worth thinking about Mr Hogan and Mr Cummings.