Saturday, November 21, 2020

By Digital Desk Staff

Gardaí have begun to examine how a retirement gathering at national broadcaster RTÉ was organised.

Garda headquarters on Saturday told the Irish Times that when “enquiries” currently underway into the matter were completed, legal advice would be sought about the potential need to progress the matter further.

Major broadcasters were photographed standing next to a retiring staff member last week at RTÉ’s Donnybrook campus in Dublin 4, in an apparent breach of social distancing guidelines.

Pictures of the event drew controversy after being highlighted in the media, with RTÉ apologising for the incident which involved news presenters such as Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh, Eileen Dunne and Miriam O’Callaghan.

The National Union for Journalists called for an urgent review of what they described as “grave breaches” of Covid-19 guidelines at the broadcaster, after those photographed did not wear masks or adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Apologies have been issued from those in attendance, including from RTÉ presenter Brian Dobson who apologised for his “lapse of judgement” after posing for a photo.

Criminal investigation

At present, Garda investigators are trying to determine if the gathering for Phil Collins, who was retiring after 40 years at RTÉ, met the criteria of being “an event” under Covid-19 regulations.

The matter is not at the level of criminal investigation at present, however, if Garda enquiries determine it was “an event”, a criminal investigation into those who organised it could be commenced.

Those who attended would not be part of that investigation as the only criminal offence that might arise relates to those who organise “events”.

“An Garda Síochána is carrying out enquiries, focused on the organisers, into an alleged event as described and the advices of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be sought in respect of any further actions to be taken,” a Garda said.

The Garda added the “personal responsibility” relating to attending an event or social distancing and wearing of masks once at an event were “public health guidelines are not penal regulations”.

Lapses in adherence to public health advice – such as not socially distancing when photographs were taken – will not form part of any Garda enquiries or possible future investigation, as the force has no role in enforcing public health advice.

The force only has an enforcement role relating to penal matters, where a criminal offence arises if Covid-19 rules are breached.

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