Tánaiste denies that guidelines were updated after controversy arose to suit his argument

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has apologised for attending an event hosted by former minister Katherine Zappone in Dublins Merrion Hotel, saying: I probably let my guard down.
In his first public comments on the controversy to RTÉs Six One News on Friday, Mr Varadkar said he did not breach the public health regulations and does not believe that the guidelines giving effect to them were breached. He denied that the guidelines had been updated since the issue arose to suit his argument.
I want to express my regret at the fact I attended that event and that its led to this controversy. And I want to say sorry to the hospitality industry in particular, theyre struggling to get open again and it doesnt help them that the guidelines are changing and are unclear at time, and to any members of the public who are confused about what the rules are, he said.
But I do want to say very clearly that the event was not in breach of the Government regulations in place at the time which allow for outdoor gatherings of over 200, and probably wasnt in breach of the Fáilte Ireland guidelines either.
Mr Varadkar said those guidelines were not clear and have changed 35 times since the pandemic began.
His comments come following days of controversy over both the planned appointment of Ms Zappone as special envoy, as well as his attendance at an event organised by the former minister in the Merrion Hotel before that appointment.
The outdoor function in the Merrion Hotel was attended by around about 50 people, including Mr Varadkar, as well as Labour TD Ivana Bacik and Green Party leader Eamon Ryans joint chief of staff, Dónall Geoghegan.
News of the event led to confusion around how many people were permitted at outdoor gatherings with representative bodies for hotels and restaurants saying they were not aware this was the case.
The Attorney General said on Wednesday that up to 200 people were allowed at outdoor gatherings within social settings.
The guidelines to reflect this were updated on Friday morning by Fáilte Ireland, in a move which has been labelled as shambolic by Sinn Féin.
Mr Varadkar said there was no live music at the event. It has been suggested by some people that I negotiated these guidelines, I did not. That is a political charge made up by Sinn Féin. It has also been suggested that those guidelines are approved by Cabinet, they are not.
He said there are four levels of rules: the Government regulations, Government advice, Nphet advice and sectoral guidelines. Mr Varadkar said outdoor events have been happening for many weeks in sports clubs and concerts.
He said he accepted the guidelines were open to interpretation.
For my part, I probably let my guard down. I did do a treble check. I checked the regulations, the ones I sign off on, the ones I am familiar with, I checked with the organiser of the event and the manager of the hotel as I arrived.
The Merrion Hotel said it adhered to Government public health measures at all times since the start of the pandemic including guidelines that were in place at the time of the event on July 21st. These guidelines were since updated on July 23rd to exclude such organised outdoor events.
In light of ongoing criticism about the way in which Government decided to appoint her, Ms Zappone decided to step back from her role as special envoy for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
In an emailed statement on Wednesday afternoon, she said: While I am honoured to have been appointed by the Government to be the Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, it is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself.
It is my conviction that a special envoy role can only be of real value to Ireland and to the global community if the appointment is acceptable to all parties.
For this reason, I have decided not to accept this appointment, and I have communicated my decision to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.