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Phil Hogan set for TV interview and expresses hope he can remain as EU Trade Commissioner

Ursula von der Leyen had requested further clarifications from Hogan on the golfgate controversy.

File photo. Hogan speaking to von der Leyen last January.
File photo. Hogan speaking to von der Leyen last January.
Image: Etienne Ansotte EC/DPA/PA Images

Updated Aug 25th 2020, 5:24 PM

EU TRADE COMMISSIONER Phil Hogan has provided a report to Ursula von der Leyen on the golf meeting controversy, after she had called for a “detailed report” on the matter.

The report was submitted to von der Leyen ahead of a public statement and timeline issued by Commissioner Hogan this afternoon, where he staunchly defends his movements and insists he did comply with public health guidelines when in Ireland. 

“When in Kildare, I was either moving through the county or momentarily there with a reasonable excuse and consequently I was not in breach of the Covid-19 restrictions imposed,” an extract from the statement reads.

The European Commission President had sought clarity from Hogan on his movements and the circumstances surrounding them last week.

RTÉ’s Tony Connelly reported this afternoon that Hogan’s team has provided 20 pages of documents, including guidelines issued by the Irish Hotels’ Federation and a map of Ireland outlining where individual counties are.

Connelly is set to interview Hogan about the entire controversy on RTÉ’s Six One News later this evening. 

The report from Hogan to President von der Leyen was requested after it emerged that he made a second trip to Kildare – this time after the Oireachtas Golf Society event.

In the report, Hogan says he “adhered to [Covid-19 requirements] at all times” and said he was not required to “self-isolate or quarantine” because he tested negative for Covid-19 after a hospital appointment. 

In a timeline of his visit, Hogan outlines stays in Kildare, Kilkenny and Galway and three rounds of golf. 

Hogan stayed in Kildare the night before his return to Brussels but insisted it wasn’t in breach of Covid-19 restrictions for that county, saying he had a “reasonable excuse” for being there. 

In his report to von der Leyen, Hogan said he stayed in Kildare before returning to Brussels “to collect my remaining personal belongings, including my passport”. 

Speaking to the Financial Times this afternoon, Hogan said he hoped his explanations for his actions would allow him remain in his position. 

“I’m hoping that she will accept this report as a sound and solid basis for allowing me to continue in the trade portfolio and as a commissioner but that’s a matter ultimately for her to decide,” he told the paper. 

I feel that I have given enough information about how I have fully complied with these regulations in Ireland to my boss, the president of the European Commission.

Pressure

The details comes as Hogan remains under pressure for his attendance at the dinner in Galway last Wednesday night, with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste asking him to account for his actions surrounding the event. Hogan has previously apologised for attending the event.

European Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant said had earlier today said von der Leyen expected a “detailed report” on his movements.

“The president also encourages Commissioner Hogan to publish a timeline of his movements in Ireland while he stayed there to ensure transparency,” Spinant said.

When she receives this report, von der Leyen will able to make a judgement with knowledge of the “full picture”, the spokesperson added.

Yesterday, it emerged that von der Leyen – Hogan’s superior – had “requested further clarifications” from the EU Commissioner for Trade on the matter. 

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Spinant told reporters yesterday: “We feel for the people of Ireland who, like many other people and communities in the European Union over the past months, had to go through difficult times to comply with strict regulations in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Many have lost loved ones, many others have been ill and others have suffered from the restrictions. So this is why it is important that rules are respected. This is a matter not just of respecting the rules, but this is also a matter of public health.

“There are legal aspects involved and there are moral aspects involved as well.”

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 that it was crucial Hogan provided full clarity about his movements leading up to the dinner.

“I think it’s important that he comprehensively and fully comes out and allows himself to be interviewed to give people exactly the sequence of events on what transpired,” he said.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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