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Hoteliers on Trial for Regulations Breach

 Two hoteliers are among four men who have gone on trial in Galway, charged with breaching regulations aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19. The proceedings relate to an event at a hotel in Clifden in August 2020, which took place after an Oireachtas Golf Society outing.stationhouse
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish, former Fianna Fáil senator, Donal (Donie) Cassidy, along with James and John Sweeney of the Station House Hotel in Clifden are all charged with organising - or causing to be organised - an event that contravened the Health Act as amended by emergency legislation in 2020.
The trial before Judge Mary Fahy is under way at Galway District Court. Prosecution Barrister Eoghan Cole told the court that it was "highly unlikely" that the case would conclude in two days. A number of witnesses due to give evidence yesterday have been unable to physically attend court as a result of the pandemic.
There has been extensive legal argument about the interpretation of regulations and guidelines surrounding gatherings of the kind that took place in Clifden.

Mr Cole said amendments to the Health Act were contained in a number of Statutory Instruments passed in 2020. These clearly stated that no more than 50 people could attend an indoor event. He said the prosecution case was that all four accused fit into the category of event organisers and were in breach of the regulations in place.
But Colm Smyth SC, for Mr Cassidy, contended that the status of Failte Ireland guidelines for the hospitality sector needed to be taken into account by the court. He said the event in Clifden was "not a frolic" and had taken place in two separate rooms.
Mr Smyth said that there had been an assumption that what the Government decided the night before had legal effect, but they were not in force for some time afterwards. He said public sentiment had been whipped up and that "a lot of very good people" had to resign in the aftermath of the gathering. Mr Smyth said his client had taken all precautions, made inquiries, checked guidelines and consulted with people in advance of the gathering, to satisfy himself that rules would be adhered to.
Michael McDowell SC, for Mr Grealish, said his client had been accused of organising an event that contravened the Health Act. He said Mr Grealish had made it clear at all times that he had no role in the organisation of the event.
Edward Walsh SC, for John Sweeney, said the event was organised in accordance with legislation then in force.
He said it was "absolutely the case" as far as industry and his client was concerned, that the guidelines evolved as part of an agreed process with the Department of Tourism, and that until such time that changes were enacted into law, the status quo remained in place.
The case is continuing with evidence from some of those who attended the dinner.

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