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'I know how to take responsibility, in fact I've done it before': It's 25 years since Phil Hogan last resigned

Cast your minds back to 1995.

download (1) Phil Hogan pictured during his resignation speech in the Dáil chamber in 1995. Source: RTÉ Archives

ALL EYES HAVE been on Phil Hogan in recent days, and his resignation last night was the culmination of a week of pressure in the wake of the Golfgate controversy.

In a statement, Hogan said: “It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead.”

In an interview with RTÉ News shortly afterwards, Hogan said the decision to resign was his alone.

“I resigned myself. I’m somebody that has been a public servant for almost 40 years. I know how to take responsibility, in fact I’ve done it before, 25 years ago.

“So nobody has to tell me, at the end of the day, when the experience that I’ve gained over that number of years has led me politically to believe what is the right thing to do.”

Cast your minds back to 1995

The previous resignation Hogan referred to took place in 1995.

It’s now par for the course that Budget details are leaked to the media ahead of the official announcement, but this was not the norm 25 years ago.

The Rainbow Coalition was in power at the time, comprising Fine Gael, Labour and the Democratic Left.

When an adviser to Hogan, then-junior finance minister, faxed Budget details to the media, the opposition was not impressed and called for accountability.

Opposition parties had been complaining for weeks in advance of the Budget that the coalition government had already leaked more information than virtually any other administration.

More specifically, they said “sensitive market information” was being revealed to the media as a result of inter-party competition within the government.

Then, four hours before Labour’s Ruairí Quinn was due to address the Dáil, Hogan’s adviser faxed details of the Finance Minister’s speech to newspapers.

Once the development emerged, Quinn said it was a “very serious” issue — but Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton, while making an apology to the Dáil, insisted he wouldn’t ask Hogan to resign.

download (2) Newspapers on the day the Budget was announced in 1995. Source: RTÉ Archives

However, the opposition was not satisfied.

Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern threatened to table a motion calling for Hogan’s resignation, unless he answered questions in the Dáil.

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In the end, Hogan resigned as junior finance minister on 9 February 1995 to avoid “damaging” the government.

Speaking in the Dáil chamber, he said: “I am proud to belong to Fine Gael. A party with the highest ideals and values of honesty and integrity, whose members have always put the country rather than the individual first.

“To avoid any possibility of damaging a government led by Taoiseach John Bruton – a man of the utmost decency and understanding qualities – I have tendered my resignation from government and it has been accepted. The decision to resign is entirely my own.”

In response, Bruton paid tribute to Hogan’s “sense of public duty”.

“It is characteristic of his sense of public duty that he was entirely willing to accept full personal responsibility for mistakes made with regard to the premature issue of material from the Budget.”

You can watch the events unfold here, via RTÉ Archives

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Órla Ryan

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