Phil Hogan resigns over ‘Golfgate’

Phil Hogan has resigned as EU Commissioner, saying the controversy over his travel in Ireland during the Covid-19 restrictions had become ‘a distraction’.

Mr Hogan attended an Oireachtas Golf Society event with 81 people in Clifden, Co Galway last week.

He was also criticised for not complying with quarantine rules when he arrived in Ireland from Brussels.

Mr Hogan had been under pressure with both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar asking him to consider his position but said he took the decision himself to resign.

Mr Hogan told RTE he broke no law or regulations but could have adhered better to the guidelines.

“I felt that the fact that I made these mistakes, notwithstanding the fact that I didn’t break the law was a sufficient distraction from the job that I was doing and for the work of the Commission,” Mr Hogan said.

He also said the decision was one he had “meditated on this very seriously in the last few days.”

“I believe the project of European Union is our shared continent’s crowning achievement: a force for peace and prosperity the likes of which the world has never seen,” he said.

“I also believe that Ireland’s destiny is deeply European, and that our small, proud, open nation will continue to play an inspiring and proactive role at the heart of the EU.”

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and leader of the Green Party said Mr Hogan’s decision was the the “correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week.”

In a joint statement, Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan acknowledged Mr Hogan’s resignation and said it must have been a difficult decision personally.

They said he should also have limited his movements to and from Kildare for essential travel only, and he should not have attended the golf dinner.

The statement continued: “We all have a responsibility to support and adhere to public health guidelines and regulations.”

The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked the Kilkenny politician for his work in Brussels.

“I am very grateful to him for his tireless work as a Trade Commissioner since the start of this mandate and for his successful term as Commissioner in charge of Agriculture in the previous College.

“He was a valuable and respected member of the college. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Mr Hogan had provided details to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, about his movements in Ireland when the country had announced stricter lockdown measures.

After arriving in the Republic of Ireland on 31 July, Mr Hogan said he travelled to his temporary residence in Kildare and tested negative for Covid-19 on 5 August during a hospital visit.

It had also been revealed that he was stopped by Gardaí in Kildare, a county in local lockdown that shouldn’t be travelled to except in exceptional circumstances, for using his phone while driving.

Hogan had apologised “fully and unreservedly” for attending the dinner in Galway but a spokesperson had said he would not resign.

Others present at the now infamous golf dinner included Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe and independent TD (MP) Noel Grealish. The Galway West TD, who is captain of the golf society, said he is not resigning over his role in organising the event although he has admitted it should never have gone ahead.

Dara Calleary resigned as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil and as national secretary of the party over his attendance of the same dinner.

Mr Calleary was just 37 days in the ministerial role.

 

 

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