Life In Focus: Disgraceful GolfGate Will Only Undermine COVID Fight If We Let It

This week, with the return on Life in Focus, Gavin gives his thoughts on the fallout of a tumultuous week in Irish politics, and why the anger at the Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden may be justified, but shouldn’t be allowed to damage our fight against COVID-19.


We’re all in this together. Until we’re not.


The anger over the rather ugly bogey by members of the Oireachtas Golf Society has been palpable since the story of the Clifden confab emerged on Thursday evening. The event is a slap in the faces of all who have made countless personal sacrifices in the national interest. Efforts were made to claim that it complied with guidelines because there as a partition dividing those in attendance into two groups of less than 50, but how many weddings would have gone ahead on that basis if couples had been given the option?  But they didn’t, of course.  We made sacrifices, and now we know that some of those who drew up the rules didn’t do the same. Like scenes from overcrowded bars or house parties, it’s not good enough, but coming from the political elite, it’s especially galling.

Even in this episode, there is one silver lining. Contrast what happened here with Dominic Cummings’ infamous trip to Barnard Castle. In that case, Boris Johnson’s top advisor clung onto his role despite the pressures faced by him. Here, Minister Dara Calleary resigned within hours of the story emerging, and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have sanctioned their Senators who attended too. It hasn’t been politics’ finest hour, but there has at least been accountability. (Phil Hogan, at the time of writing, remains a notable exception, admittedly. He will continue to come under significant pressure)

This won’t restore public confidence by any means, and some may think that there is an element of a witch-hunt going on, but one can at least hope that the fallout of this incident will make others think twice in the future.

Many peoples’ faith in politics was already rocked before this, of course.  Earlier this week, there were confusing messages from government on the new COVID guidelines before and after their announcement. There was intense anger from older listeners to Morning Focus on Tuesday when it appeared that they would be put back into a de-facto lockdown. That didn’t quite come to pass, but the resentment that older people could be punished, as it was seen, for the actions of younger people, won’t go away. Afterwards, there were clarifications and climbdowns on what the regulations mean for arts spaces and sports teams.  It was a mess, frankly.

I get the anger. I understand the bitterness. But, with respect to those who are annoyed, it doesn’t matter.

We’ve heard the clichés about the coronavirus, that we may be tired of it but it isn’t tired of infecting us. It’s a truism, but it’s true, and it’s important. What matters to me is that I do all I can to protect those I love. What matters to you, I’m sure, is the same for your loved ones. If you’re angry that your liberties have been taken away, and if you feel an injustice at an elite class rubbing shoulders after telling us to keep our distance, I won’t disagree with you.  I am angry too.  But our anger won’t keep anyone safe.  If it nudges us off course in terms of following the guidelines, then it’ll do the opposite.

Dara Calleary admits that he underminded the national fight against COVID-19. Let’s prove him wrong. Keep the course, please. For you, for your family, for your community. And for mine.

Don’t lose sight of the battle that we are in, even if others have taken their eye off the (golf) ball.