The Irish Hotels Federation has said there are "challenges" in the way the Government is communicating public health advice to businesses, amid the political fallout over the Oireachtas golf dinner that took place in Galway on Wednesday.

It pointed to the example of "central Government press conferences announcing changes to public health advice in the absence of updated operational guidelines for businesses" as one of these challenges.

There is a time-lag around the implementation of new measures, as agreed with the Department of Tourism, it said. This means that the status quo remains in place for a time until updated guidance is issued for businesses.

"We would like to stress that we see first-hand the enormous and essential work done by both the Department of Tourism and Fáilte Ireland in equipping our sector with the required guidance and advice necessary to operate safely in line with public health advice," the IHF said in a statement.

"However, throughout this time we have also experienced first-hand the challenges for businesses in relation to wider Government communications around public health advice, e.g. central Government press conferences announcing changes to public health advice in the absence of updated operational guidelines for businesses."

The federation issued the statement as a 'clarification', in light of media reports about the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co Galway.

It said it provides ‘general advice’ and had no role in organising or providing clearance for this event.

"At all times we encourage hotels and guesthouses to comply with the required guidelines," it said.

When new measures are announced for the hospitality industry, the IHF said there is a time-lag in their implementation, until updated guidance is issued by the relevant Department.

"There is an established process in place with the Department of Tourism for when changes are announced in that the status quo remains in place until updated guidance is issued by the Department.

"This means that the new advice does not come into effect for tourism businesses until updated guidance is developed and communicated through the Department. This time-lag can create significant challenges, given public expectations around newly announced Government advice," it said.

"The issues raised this week show the limitations in relation to current official communications around changes to public health advice to industry," added the IHF.

The federation outlined a timeline, in which it said that last Wednesday morning it received a query from the organiser of the golf society event about the guidelines for indoor gatherings.

"We indicated that we had no update from the Department of Tourism on the guidelines," said the IHF statement.

"In response to queries in relation to Tuesday's announcement, the Department of Tourism informed the IHF that the status quo [existing guidance] remained until clarification was received [in consultation with the Department of Health]." The federation communicated this to its members.

Existing guidelines at the time capped indoor gatherings at a maximum of 50 people including staff. "Multiple gatherings were allowed in venue facilities provided they were in separate defined spaces and there were systems to prevent intermingling in common spaces (e.g. entrances, exits and toilet facilities)," the IHF said.

On Friday afternoon, the IHF said it received the interim guidance from Fáilte Ireland on the new rules for indoor gatherings, "including the restriction of gatherings to six people indoors and 15 people outdoors with weddings for up to 50 people including staff".

"Fáilte Ireland has informed us that they are in the process of updating the relevant guidelines and that these will be available early next week," added the IHF.

Among the 81 attendees were Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary and Seanad Leas-Cathaoirleach Jerry Buttimer, who have both resigned.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has been asked by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to consider his position, following his attendance at the dinner.

Gardaí have launched an investigation into the Connemara event.

In addition to the resignations, the party whip was removed from three Fianna Fáil senators, and three Fine Gael senators, including Jerry Buttimer.

Dinner 'not within guidelines' - McConkey

A specialist in infectious diseases has said the golf dinner event which took place in Clifden, which was attended by several public representatives, was "clearly not in within the public health guidelines".

Speaking on RTÉ's Brendan O'Connor programme, Professor Sam McConkey said people behave in ways that are often built on routines that have been practised multiple times before, and that these people were behaving in that way, without realising that the world has changed.

He said the event was "clearly not within the public health guidelines".

Prof McConkey said as a nation if we all took part in such events then the virus would spread again through the community and cause more and more problems.

He said: "I can understand psychologically why people did it, but it definitely was against our public health rules, and it's quite wrong for our leaders to be saying there's one rule for them and a different set of rules for everyone else."

He said the limiting of public gatherings was the right decision, as it had worked in other countries.

He said he could understand psychologically why people might do it, as if you are playing golf, it is an outdoor game, but it was a different story when the occasion moved to an indoor event.

Prof McConkey added it was wrong for leaders to be acting as if there is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else.