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Phil Hogan 'left Kildare two days before localised lockdown', says spokesperson

The EU Commissioner is based in Belgium, which is not on Ireland’s travel ‘green list’.

Phil Hogan (file photo)
Phil Hogan (file photo)

Updated Aug 21st 2020, 5:00 PM

EU TRADE COMMISSIONER Phil Hogan left Kildare two days before a localised lockdown came into effect in the county preventing people leaving, a spokesperson has claimed. 

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

The comments about Hogan’s movements come after the commissioner was among a number of politicians who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society event in Cliden, Co Galway. 

Hogan has claimed that he obeyed the government’s quarantine rules before attending the event. 

The golf dinner was attended by more than 80 people and has led to the resignation of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary this morning.

Eighty-one people are said to have attended the event, with the room divided into two. The Irish Examiner, which first reported the story, alleged that up to 10 people were seated at tables.

Acting chief medical officer Dr. Ronan Glynn said this evening that it “seems clear” that the event did not adhere to public health guidance

Former Fine Gael minister Hogan, who is Ireland’s representative in the European Commission and is based in Brussels, is facing pressure over his attendance at the event.

There have been questions over whether Hogan restricted movements before attending the event after travelling from Belgium, which is not on Ireland’s travel ‘green list’ – as required under HSE guidelines.

In a statement on Twitter this morning, he said he was assured by the organisers that the arrangements in place complied with the government’s public health guidelines.

Phil Hog Source: Twitter

The Commissioner also said that he restricted movements for two weeks after entering the country.

“Prior to the event, I had complied fully with the government’s quarantine requirements, having been in Ireland since late July,” he added.

There have also been questions about whether Hogan had left for the event from Kildare in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions.

In a further statement this evening, a spokesperson for Hogan said that the commissioner returned to Ireland at the end of July and went to Kildare, but left two days before a localised lockdown was introduced on 7 August.  

The spokesperson said that Hogan left Kildare on 5 August for a hospital appointment.

“In the course of that appointment, the commissioner tested negative for Covid,” the spokesperson said. 

At the conclusion of that appointment, he went to Co Kilkenny for a period of convalescence and this is where he completed his period of quarantine.

“He travelled to the golf event in Co Galway directly from Co Kilkenny. Thus, there is no question of him having breached the local lockdown requirements which continue to apply in Co Kildare.”

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‘Good faith’ 

A spokeswoman for the European Commission earlier told Reuters that Hogan attended the event “in good faith”. 

“He attended this event on the clear understanding that the organisers and the hotel concerned had been assured by the Irish hotels Federation, that the arrangements proposed to be put in place for the event, were or would be in compliance with the government’s guidelines,” Reuters reports the spokeswoman as saying. 

The news organisation said the spokeswoman did not respond when asked if Hogan would resign as trade commissioner. 

Fine Gael Senator and leader of the Seanad Regina Doherty called the event a “stunning lapse of judgement” and called on Hogan to apologise to the public for attending.

“The very least that needs to be done is a recognition that it was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened,” she told RTÉ radio. “What I would love to see is an apology.”

Gardaí this morning confirmed they have launched an investigation into the event.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy and PA 

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