Phil Hogan. RollingNews.ie file photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
Phil Hogan has resigned his post as EU Trade Commissioner amid the fallout over “Golfgate.”
Hogan said he had resigned from his role as EU Commissioner because controversy over his travel in Ireland during the Covid-19 restrictions was “a distraction” and would have undermined his work in the coming months.
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The resignation of the high profile Hogan follows controversy over his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden, County Galway, last week.
The Irish government will now have to come up with a replacement for Hogan and the EU has asked for the names of a number of men and women potential replacements.
Hogan’s departure will be seen as a blow by many in the context of Brexit and trade talking involving not just the EU and UK, but also the EU and United States.
Hogan was seen as a staunch defender of EU, and by extension, Ireland’s interests in the Brexit negotiations which, lately, have not been going well.
RTE reported that Mr. Hogan said he took the decision himself as the controversy was “becoming a distraction” from his work as EU Trade Commissioner.
Speaking to RTÉ News he said he “deeply regrets” that his trip to Ireland had caused so much upset, anger and concern to people.
He said he broke no law or regulations when he travelled to Ireland, 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,” Hogan said.
He said he has “meditated on this very seriously in the last few days” and came to the conclusion that he should remove the distraction.
In a statement, he said it has been an honor to serve as European Commissioner.
“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.”
Mr. Hogan said that throughout his almost 40-year political career he made a lifelong commitment to public service.
According to RTE, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan have said Mr. Hogan’s decision was the the “correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week.”
In a joint statement, the three leaders of the coalition government parties acknowledged Mr. Hogan’s resignation and said it must have been a difficult decision personally.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, thanked Hogan for his “tireless work” since he began his time 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,” she said.
Ultimately it would have fallen to von der Leyen to potentially call for Hogan’s resignation if he had not made the move to resign himself.
Hogan, according to RTE, had been in the spotlight since it emerged he was among those who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden attended by eighty people. The event has led to high level political sacking and suspensions, including the firinig of agriculture minister Dara Calleary.
Hogan provided details to von der Leyen about his attendance at the event, and his movements while in Ireland. The information was provided following a request by the Commission president.
In the documents, Mr. Hogan said he tested negative for Covid-19 during a hospital visit on 5 August and received a negative Covid-19 test while in hospital.
Hogan told RTÉ News that he had broken no regulations while in Ireland, was no risk to anybody, but had made big mistakes and is very embarrassed.
He said that as he had tested negative for Covid-19, it exempted him from the requirement to restrict movements for 14 days.
However, the Department of Health issued a statement saying a person is required to restrict their movements for 14 days if they arrive into Ireland from a country not on the green list.
It said the guidance does not state that a negative Covid-19 test shortens the 14-days requirement.
In their joint statement, Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan said Mr. Hogan’s “delayed and hesitant release of information has undermined public confidence.”
They said that government guideline “clearly required him to restrict his movements for 14 days” and that Mr. Hogan should also have limited his movements to and from Kildare for essential travel only, and he should not have attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner.
The three added that people are “correctly angered by these actions.”
Potential nominees to replace Mr. Hogan in Brussels, according to RTE, include Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, Mairead McGuinness, a vice president of the European Parliament, and former government minister Richard Bruton.