‘It will live with me for the rest of my life’ – Waterford Senator breaks silence over golfgate controversy
Enbattled Waterford Senator John Cummins has finally broken his silence over the golfgate controversy.
The local Fine Gael Senator initially “unreservedly” apologised for his attendance at the now infamous golf society dinner in county Galway with 80 others in breach of Covid-19 regulations. But he had declined requests for further comment or to be made available for interview until this morning, when he was grilled on the controversy by WLR presenter Damien Tiernan.
In a wide-ranging interview, Senator Cummins again admitted he made “a serious mistake”, adding: “I know I’ve let people down I want to apologise profusely for it. I appreciate I have hurt and angered a lot of people.”
Senator Cummins was repeatedly pressed by Tiernan about what he was thinking attending the dinner when it was clear it did not comply with the Government’s guidelines.
“Clearly I wasn’t thinking too much – I should never have been in that room. I wasn’t staying in that hotel, I had no business being in that hotel. I didn’t enagage my brain enough. I should have removed myself from it [hotel].”
Senator Cummins said he travelled to Clifden in county Galway on the M4 motorway via Dublin. He confirmed a friend of his also travelled separately to the event.
The general election candidate said he was “assured” by organisers that the event would be “in compliance with the guidlines”, but he admitted: “I should have seen what was in front of me and removed myself from it.”
He added: “For me, it was stupidity. It was gross stupidity. I shouldn’t have been there. I should have seen what was in front of me.”
Senator Cummins also acknowledged he let down members of his own family who are working on the frontline fighting the spread of the virus. “I know I’ve let them down,” he said.
He claimed he did not go to the event to “network” and insisted he did not know who else would be in attendance: “I didn’t know any of those people were going to be there. I knew I was going to be playing golf with [Fine Gael Senator] Jerry Buttimer, that’s it.”
When pressed on whether he should have walked out of the event when he saw how many people were in attendance, Senator Cummins said: “Looking back on it now I wish I was never there, but I have noone to blame for that but myself. I shouldn’t have gone near the hotel. I’m not trying to justify my actions in any way. I made the error of judgement. I expect better of myself. I’ve let a lot of people down. I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to build trust with people. I know that.”
The Waterford politician, who contested the last general election and had been seen as his party’s best chance of recapturing a seat in the constituency before the golfgate controversy, has come in much on criticism on social media in recent weeks, most of it anonymous and some of it very nasty.
Senator Cummins, his voice quivering, said he did not want to go into details about some of the abuse that has been directed at him, but admitted it did have an impact on him and his family.
When pressed on the matter by Tiernan, he said: “I’m not comfortable talking about my feelings. I am a strong person. I probably thought I was able for anything that was thrown at me. That’s clearly not the case. It’s been a struggle.”
Responding to questions about his decision not to be interviewed until now, the Fine Gael Senator insisted he did not recieve advice “not to come on the programme,” telling Tiernan: “I wanted to come on your programme. To be honest I’ve never been in a situation like this [before]. It’s knocked me, it’s knocked my family, for six.” But he added: “I’m not looking for sympathy – I understand the hurt and anger I’ve caused people.”
Despite huge anger locally over the controversy, and losing the party whip, Senator Cummins said he would not be resigning over the controversy.
He added: “I thought about it [resigning], but you know, I think that would be giving up on the people who have supported me. Walking away from politics now is not going to make up for the mistake I’ve made.”
Despite vowing to remain on as a public representative, Seantor Cummins admitted: “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget this event, it will probably live with me for the rest of my life.”