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Dara Calleary resigns as Minister for Agriculture in Republic of Ireland

Dara Calleary has resigned as Minister for Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland.

Calleary was among over 80 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner.

In a brief statement, his spokesperson told Independent.ie: “The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Dara Calleary TD is resigning as a member of the government, effective immediately.”

Mr Calleary's resignation from Cabinet comes just 37 days after he was appointed to the Department of Agriculture after Taoiseach Micheál Martin sacked his predecessor Barry Cowen from the role amid controversy over a drink-driving offence.

Mr Martin has now lost two Agriculture Ministers in just 54 days.

Mr Calleary had three conversations with Taoiseach Micheal Martin since details of his attendance at a golf society.

In the first conversation, Mr Calleary set out the details of the event and apologsied for attending the dinner with around 80 people.

They spoke again late last night and discussed what action should be taken as a result of the growing controversy.

The final time they spoke was this morning when it was agreed Mr Calleary had no option but to resign.

The Taoiseach will be Minister of Agriculture until the Dáil returns in the next three weeks.

Mr Calleary had been due to speak to RTÉ's Morning Ireland and Newstalk Breakfast but pulled out of both interviews amid uncertainty about his future.

The golf dinner followed a two-day golf tournament in Galway but sources who took part said there was no formal indoor gathering on the first night of the event.

The Oireachtas Golf Society dinner was held just over 24 hours after Mr Calleary and his Cabinet colleagues agreed to implement stringent Covid-19 restrictions which banned any indoor gathering of more than six people.

Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and former RTÉ broadcaster Sean O’Rourke were among over 80 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner, it can also be revealed.

Mr O’Rourke confirmed he was at the dinner saying it was his understanding “the organisers had satisfied themselves through the hotel that they were operating within guidelines”.

A spokesman for Phil Hogan confirmed on Thursday night that the Commissioner attended the dinner and added: “I can confirm that the Commissioner complied fully with all quarantine/restricted movement requirements on his return to Ireland.”

The dinner had between 60 to 80 attendees split across a partitioned function room at the hotel.

The function was organised by the society’s president, former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy, with the event honouring the late former Fianna Fáil MEP Mark Killilea.

In a statement, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said Mr Calleary's attendance was "wrong and an error of judgement on his part."

"I have accepted his resignation. People all over the country have made very difficult, personal sacrifices in their family lives and in their businesses to comply with Covid regulations. This event should not have gone ahead in the manner it did given the Government decision of last Tuesday," he said.

"Dara Calleary, since he was first elected to Dail Eireann has been, and remains, a committed and dedicated public representative. This error of judgement was out of character. He has made the right decision for the country, particularly in the light of our continued efforts to supress Covid-19."

Education Minister Norma Foley said that Mr Calleary made a "serious lapse of judgement" when he attended the function on Wednesday.

"A serious breach of judgment occurred. The Minister concerned put his hand up. He took the honorable action, from his point of view. He has resigned. I think that is a measure of Dara Calleary himself that he has done that," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

When asked if the new government is in trouble, she said there are "always going to be issues and challenges in governments, that's the nature of government, and how we react to them is a measure of government."

Ms Foley said Mr Calleary's resignation was an "appropriate action" and the other TDs and senators that were in attendance "will need to look at their own personal circumstances" and "perhaps to judge it against the standard that Dara has set."

Labour party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called for the others to "now consider their positions".

He added: "I think the Leas-Cathaoirleach is one of those individuals, and I think the EU Commissioner is another."

Belfast Telegraph