Irish Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary has resigned after attending a golf dinner with more than 80 people.
Wednesday’s Irish parliamentary golf society event at a County Galway hotel came a day after Dublin announced a tightening of lockdown restrictions.
Dara Calleary had been in post for a month; he replaced Barry Cowen who was sacked after a drink-driving scandal.
The Irish PM accepted the resignation, saying Mr Calleary’s behaviour “was wrong and an error of judgement”.
Gardaí (Irish police) are now investigating the event for possible breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
Others present at the event included the former Fine Gael minister and EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, the Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe, Fine Gael senator Jerry Buttimer and the Independent TD (MP) Noel Grealish.
Mr Buttimer also resigned as Leas-Cathaoirleach (deputy chairman of the Irish senate) on Friday morning and apologised unreservedly for attending the event, which he said was “an unintended but serious lapse of judgement”.
Dara Calleary said, “I wish to apologise unreservedly to the public, from whom we are asking quite a lot at this difficult time.”
In a statement on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “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.”
Tánaiste (deputy PM) and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said the event should not have happened and that he has removed the party whip from three Fine Gael senators who attended.
He said he understands how difficult the restrictions have been for people and the enormous sacrifices that have been made and “as representatives we should lead by example”.
He added: “In recognition of the seriousness of this matter, I have removed the party whip from Senators Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke and John Cummins.”
Mr Hogan said on Twitter that he had attended the event “on the clear understanding that the organisers and the hotel concerned had been assured [by the Irish Hotels’ Federation] that the arrangements put in place would be in compliance with the government’s guidelines”.
He added: “Prior to the event, I had complied fully with the government’s quarantine requirements, having been in Ireland since late July.”
The EU Commission said Mr Hogan attended the event in good faith, believing arrangements were COVID compliant.
Mr Justice Woulfe, a former attorney general in the Republic of Ireland, said he attended one day of the Oireachtas Golf Society outing as a guest, but that he was “not aware in advance that there was going to be an organised dinner as part of the event”.
Dara Calleary said he had attended based on the understanding that the event would be within the public health guidelines, and would “never disregard governmental or health authorities advice regarding public health”.
“That I ended up in a situation where breaches may have occurred, is of great regret to me, and for which I am sorry.
“I unreservedly apologise.”
Mr Grealish, who is the captain of the golf society, has also apologised.
He told Galway Bay FM he sat at a table with six people and maintained social distancing.
He claimed he was assured the event met new public health guidelines, but now realised his error of judgement.