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Golfgate: Phil Hogan was stopped by gardaí in Kildare for using mobile phone while driving

Hogan travelled to Kildare while it was under localised lockdown, on his way to Co Galway.

File photo. Phil Hogan
File photo. Phil Hogan
Image: Moritz Frankenberg DPA/PA Images

Updated Aug 23rd 2020, 9:45 PM

IT HAS EMERGED that EU Commissioner Phil Hogan was stopped by gardaí in Co Kildare for using his mobile phone while driving on 17 August.

The news comes hours after Hogan apologised “fully and unreservedly” for attending the infamous Oireachtas Golf Society dinner on 19 August.

This afternoon’s apology came after Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar asked Hogan last night to “consider his position” and said his initial apology for attending the function “came late”. 

In tonight’s statement, a spokesperson confirmed that Hogan had been stopped by gardaí while on a short visit to Kildare on 17 August. He was on his way to the golf society’s event in Clifden. 

On the occasion that the Commissioner stopped off briefly in Co Kildare on 17 August, en route from Kilkenny to Galway, he was stopped by a Garda for using his mobile phone while driving. He stopped briefly at his apartment to collect personal belongings and essential documents relating to the EU-US trade negotiations, which continued while the Commissioner was in Galway.

This followed news that emerging today that Hogan travelled to Kildare while it was under localised lockdown, before travelling to Galway for the golf event. 

It has previously been reported that Hogan left Kildare two days before the localised lockdown came into effect in the county, preventing people leaving. 

Hogan tested negative for Covid-19 after arriving into Ireland and initially spent time in Kildare before staying in Kilkenny.

However, his spokesperson confirmed today that Hogan “stopped briefly at his apartment in Kildare on his way from Kilkenny to Clifden on 17 August for the purpose of collecting personal belongings and essential work documents (relating to negotiations which continued while he was in Galway)”. 

“The lockdown guidelines for Kildare provide for exceptional travel outside the [county] ‘to travel to work and home again’,” his spokesperson said. 

Now it has been confirmed that it was while on this visit to Kildare that gardaí stopped Hogan for using a mobile phone while driving.

On Thursday night, it emerged that Hogan was one of over 80 people who attended a golf function at a hotel in Clifden, Co Galway. 

Apology

Hogan had previously claimed that he obeyed the government’s quarantine rules before attending the event. He said he was assured by the organisers that the arrangements in place complied with the government’s public health guidelines.

In a fresh statement this afternoon, Hogan said he wishes to “apologise fully and unreservedly” for attending the event. 

“I want, in particular, to apologise to the wonderful healthcare workers, who continue to put their lives on the line to combat Covid-19 and all people who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. I acknowledge my actions have touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, something for which I am profoundly sorry,” Hogan said. 

I realise fully the unnecessary stress, risk and offence caused to the people of Ireland by my attendance at such an event, at such a difficult time for all, and I am extremely sorry for this.
I acknowledge that the issue is far bigger than compliance with rules and regulations and adherence to legalities and procedures. All of us must display solidarity as we try to stamp out this common plague.
I thus offer this fulsome and profound apology, at this difficult time for all people, as the world as a whole combats Covid-19.

“I spoke to both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste yesterday and I have listened carefully to their views, which I respect. I have been reporting to the President of the European Commission on all these matters in recent days,” he said.

‘The apology helps’

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s This Week earlier today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed that himself and Martin spoke to Hogan last night, adding the Commissioner “believes that he’s broken no law”. 

“That may well be the case. He does accept that he may have breached some of the government’s public health guidelines, but he believes that’s an honest mistake, that he’s not a resident in the country and wouldn’t be as familiar with them as a Cabinet minister, for example, who signed off on them,” Varadkar said. 

Asked whether Hogan’s apology is enough, the Tánaiste said: “The apology helps, it would have been better if it had come sooner but it definitely helps. I think as well he needs to account for himself and explain his own actions.

“He needs to answer any questions people have, and that’s not just in relation to the dinner, it’s also any questions that might arise from his movements within the country and his movements in and out of Co Kildare.”

Also speaking on programme this morning, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described Hogan’s position as “untenable”. 

She added that for Hogan to continue without the support of Martin and Varadkar would be “intolerable”.

“It is very clear that he has lost the confidence of the government, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have asked him to consider his position.

“That really means game over. It would be very, very alarming and would deepen the sense of crisis and chaos if the commissioner were to stay on despite having lost the confidence of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste,” McDonald said. 

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She also said the Dáil should be recalled on Tuesday. It was announced today that the Dáil is to be recalled at the start of September. 

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary resigned his role as Agriculture Minister and Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer stood down as Leas Cathaoirleach of the Seanad as the scandal unfolded on Thursday night and Friday. 

Gardaí are investigating the event and whether it broke any Covid-19 guidelines. 

Hogan was elected as a TD for Fine Gael in Carlow-Kilkenny in 1989 and kept his seat until 2014, when he was nominated to take the role of European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. He was then nominated for the Trade role late last year.

With reporting by Aoife Barry, Sean Murray and Press Association

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