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Phil Hogan resigns from his role as EU Trade Commissioner

“Of course I broke no law, I broke no regulations, but I could have adhered better to the guidelines,” he told RTÉ this evening.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

Updated Aug 26th 2020, 9:07 PM

PHIL HOGAN HAS resigned from his role as EU Commissioner for Trade in the wake of the Golfgate scandal and questions about his movements while in Ireland.

In a statement published just before 9pm, 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”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News, Hogan said: “I broke no law, I broke no regulations, but I could have adhered better to the guidelines.”

He acknowledged that he caused upset and anger in Ireland, and said that the issue had become an unacceptable distraction that was going to continue.

Hogan was one of over 80 attendees at the Oireachtas Golf Society event last Wednesday night. The fallout has seen Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary resign, a garda probe launched and the early recall of the Dáil

On Saturday, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar asked Hogan to “consider his position” as EU Commissioner and said he needed to give a “full account and explanations of his actions”.

But it was up to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to decide whether Hogan retained the role as EU Commissioner; the EC President had requested statements explaining his movements while in Ireland.

Yesterday afternoon, Hogan released a statement and timeline of his movements before and after the golfgate dinner in Clifden, but questions remained over his compliance with public health guidelines – particularly in relation to his compliance with quarantine after returning to Ireland from Brussels, and his adherence to a strict lockdown in Co Kildare.

Last night, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan released a joint-statement saying that “it is clear” that Hogan breached public health guidelines while in Ireland.

This evening, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister Ryan released another statement to say that “while this must have been a difficult decision for him personally, we believe that it is the correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week”. 

The statement added that his replacement would be considered in due course.

In response to his resignation, von der Leyen said that she respects Hogan’s decision and is “very grateful” for his “tireless” work as a Trade Commissioner and as Agriculture Commissioner.

“He was a valuable and respected member of the College. I wish him all the best for the future,” her statement concludes.

Statement from Hogan

In a statement released on the European Commission website, Hogan said that he had handed in his resignation to EC President Ursula von der Leyen. 

In it, he states: “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.”

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In his interview with RTÉ this evening, Hogan said:

I have meditated on this very seriously in the last few days and I have come to the reluctant conclusion that this sort of distraction was going to continue, and therefore I should resign and take myself away from this essential work.

He said he the distraction was “not acceptable”. He also clarified that he resigned, and was not sacked by von der Leyen.

Hogan’s written statement continues: “I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset.

I have always tried to comply with all relevant Covid-19 regulations in Ireland and had understood that I had met with all relevant public health guidelines, particularly following confirmation of a negative Covid-19 test. I reiterate my heartfelt apology to the Irish people for the mistakes I made during my visit.

With reporting from Laura Byrne and Sean Murray

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