Apologies for mishandling of Gatland visit

THE key States figures involved in British & Irish Lions rugby coach Warren Gatland’s visit to Guernsey over Easter weekend made a heartfelt apology for the way the trip was handled.

States chief executive Paul Whitfield, speaking about the handling of British & Irish Lions rugby coach Warren Gatland’s visit to Guernsey over Easter weekend, said that all the CCA’s actions, and the staff who support them, were always aimed to do the best for the community. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29448657)
States chief executive Paul Whitfield, speaking about the handling of British & Irish Lions rugby coach Warren Gatland’s visit to Guernsey over Easter weekend, said that all the CCA’s actions, and the staff who support them, were always aimed to do the best for the community. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29448657)

Civil Contingencies Authority chairman Peter Ferbrache, States chief executive Paul Whitfield and Dr Nicola Brink, Director of Public Health, all met the New Zealander on his visit, which was heavily criticised by some islanders for ‘breaking’ Covid rules, although Dr Brink had cleared the trip from a medical perspective.

The Lions squad is now set to go to Jersey in June, not Guernsey, and Deputy Ferbrache said yesterday that he was aware that the visit had divided the community.

‘I would like to apologise for how we communicated the visit to you,’ he said.

‘We didn’t tell you what was happening in advance. There was no nefarious reason for that. We had to work very quickly... and we wanted to take up the opportunity.’

He said that the visit was not announced in advance for fear of attracting crowds, and admitted that the original statement issued by the States that weekend was hasty and clumsy.

‘It wasn’t correct,’ he said.

‘It wasn’t intentionally misleading, so we then had to correct ourselves. That’s not right because it makes you doubt us.’

Mr Gatland’s visit to Jersey in February had not been as highly structured and controlled as his weekend in Guernsey, he said.

‘The overwhelming consideration was safety,’ Deputy Febrache said.

But he stood by the decision to allow the visit.

‘It was the right thing to do and I fully believe that.’

The eventual choice of Jersey was based on the quality of facilities, he believed, but negative attitudes and publicity in Guernsey had not helped.

‘I acted at all times in good faith, so did everybody else.

‘I just think it’s a shame that a thing that was done for the overwhelming good of Guernsey, should have ended up with a bit of a sour taste.’

Deputy Ferbrache said he accepted being criticised, but took exception to criticisms of Dr Brink and her team.

Dr Brink said she was very sorry for what happened.

‘For me, it’s a time to learn and to reflect,’ she said.

Mr Whitfield said the government could have communicated more effectively.

‘I promise, as always, that lessons will be learnt,’ he said.

He added that all the CCA’s actions, and the staff who support them, were always aimed to do what was best for the community.

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