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Irish leader forced to defend govt future amid golf scandal

Ireland’s prime minister has been forced to defend the future of his government as criticism mounted over a golf event attended by senior politicians despite a ban on large gatherings designed to slow the spread of COVID-19

Irish leader forced to defend govt future amid golf scandal

LONDON — Ireland’s prime minister was forced to defend the future of his government Monday as criticism mounted over a golf event attended by senior politicians despite a ban on large gatherings designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin, during a 40-minute grilling by national broadcaster RTE, welcomed public outrage over the event, which has already led to the resignation of his agriculture minister and the deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, because he said it underscored the need for everyone to combat the spread of coronavirus.

But he sought to focus attention on the Irish government’s legislative record, not speculation that his coalition will collapse over the scandal.

“It will survive,” he said. “The situation is tenable, of course it’s tenable. It’s not falling apart. The government is seven weeks in office. It’s done more in its first seven weeks in office than many of its predecessors.”

Martin’s comments came after the government said parliament would be recalled from its summer recess next week, two weeks ahead of schedule. Opposition parties are demanding that lawmakers return immediately to debate the crisis.

The scandal erupted last week amid reports that more than 80 people, including senior members of Martin’s party, Fianna Fael, attended a golf society dinner in Galway on Aug. 19. That was a day after the government re-introduced social distancing rules that bar large social events and say no more than eight people should sit together in restaurants.

Former Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary resigned over his attendance, as has Jerry Buttimer, the deputy speaker of the Senate. The…

DANICA KIRKA and LORNE COOK

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