A Department of Foreign Affairs review of a celebration in 2020 at Iveagh House has found that a "serious breach" of social distancing rules occurred, however it concludes that the event was not planned.

The report into the celebratory gathering of officials in June of that year, in the aftermath of Ireland winning a UN Security Council seat, was published by the department this evening.

An image which was shared on social media at the time of the celebration in June 2020 showed a number of officials from the Department's UN Security Council campaign team gathered together posing for a photograph indoors.

The investigation was undertaken by the new Secretary General in the department, Joe Hackett, following a request from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

The 18-page report found that after Ireland's election to the UN Security Council was announced in New York, a "breach of guidance on social distancing occurred".

It states that "by providing alcohol and requesting a group of 20 officers to congregate for the purposes of a photo", the then Secretary General Niall Burgess "facilitated a breach of the guidance".

In the view of the investigation, while the posing for the photograph was "brief" - estimated to be for one minute - the breach was "serious".

The review found Secretary General Niall Burgess "facilitated a breach of the guidance".

The report adds: "In the opinion of the Review Team, the actions taken were not representative of the dedication and compliance shown by colleagues across the Department in response to the pandemic, nor are they a reflection of the overall conduct of the officers concerned during their presence in Iveagh House that day."

Ireland was in Phase Two of its reopening plan in June 2020, and Covid-19 regulations stipulated that people could only meet up to six others from outside their household in both indoor and outdoor settings.

At that stage in 2020, people were also advised to work from home where possible, while travel was also restricted to inside a person's county of residence, or 20km, whichever was greater.

The review also said it received "no evidence" that public health guidance was breached when the then Tánaiste Mr Coveney returned to the UN Policy Unit to thank the officers.

In a statement accompanying the report, Mr Hackett said he wants to "clearly acknowledge the genuine concerns" that have been expressed surrounding the incident on 17 June 2020.

He said: "It was a mistake. It should not have happened and, on behalf the Department, I would like to say sorry.

"The image of staff celebrating Ireland's election to the United Nations Security Council has caused offence to the public who were unable to come together at significant moments in their professional and personal lives."

Mr Hackett added: "At that time, many of our fellow citizens were dealing with the devastating impact of the pandemic and grieving the loss of loved ones."

The former Secretary General Niall Burgess, who now serves as the Ambassador to France, has been asked to make a donation to a charity providing assistance to people affected by Covid in the amount of €2,000. Mr Burgess was responsible for the photograph taken at Iveagh House.

Three other senior officials have been asked to make a similar donation in the amount of €1,000. Each of the officials concerned has agreed to do so.

The current Secretary General, Mr Hackett, added: "I do not intend to take any further action."