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File image of Phil Hogan. Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

'The correct course of action': Politicians react to Phil Hogan's resignation as EU Trade Commissioner

Phil Hogan resigned from his role this evening.

THE GOVERNMENT LEADERS have said Phil Hogan’s resignation from his trade role at the European Commission was the “correct course of action”. 

The embattled Trade Commissioner resigned this evening following almost a week of controversy over his adherence to Covid-19 restrictions during his time in Ireland. 

Hogan was one of many politicians who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society function in Clifden, Co Galway last Wednesday. 

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said in a statement that she respects Hogan’s decision to resign. 

“I am very grateful to him for his tireless work as a Trade Commissioner since the start of this mandate and for his successful term as Commissioner in charge of Agriculture in the previous College,” she said.

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

The resignation was welcomed by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan in a joint statement this evening. 

Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Ryan said they “believe that it is the correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week”. 

“We all have a responsibility to support and adhere to public health guidelines and regulations,” the statement said. 

“We all must persevere in our efforts against Covid-19.” 

The government will consider Hogan’s replacement “in due course”, the statement said. 

Separately on Twitter, Varadkar said Hogan “served Kilkenny, Ireland & Europe with distinction”. 

“His decision today must have been very difficult for him personally. It’s sad that great career should end in this way,” the Tánaiste said. 

Hogan this evening released a statement saying: “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.”

Hogan said he deeply regrets that his trip to Ireland “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.”

Welcomed by most

The director general at the International Trade Department of the EU, Sabine Weyand, described today as “a sad day”. 

“We will sorely miss you [Phil Hogan], your stamina, dedication and negotiating talent, in dealing with the many challenges the global economy and [EU Trade] face.”

The two Green Party MEPs welcomed Hogan’s resignation from the role in a statement this evening. 

Ciarán Cuffe said: “Phil Hogan’s resignation was necessary to rebuild the public’s confidence in the measures and guidance put in place to protect citizens from Covid-19.”

Grace O’Sullivan said: “I am confident the government will choose an able replacement who will work with integrity in the interests of Ireland and the EU as a whole.”

Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews said the commission “has tried to become more political, connect with EU citizens and indeed be more accountable”. 

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said he welcomes Hogan’s decision but said it “is five days overdue and has resulted in enormous damage to our effort to tackle Covid-19″. 

“The government needs to move quickly to fill the vacancy that now arises in the EU Commission at what is a critical moment for Ireland,” Kelly said. 

“The Irish nominee must be a person of the highest calibre to impress upon the Commission President and the European Parliament that we should retain the trade portfolio.”

At 2.30pm yesterday, Hogan published a lengthy statement and timeline attempting to explain his whereabouts and the reasoning behind them. At 6pm, he did a short interview with RTÉ news to explain his movements further.

The Commissioner apologised for his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden on 19 August, which Hogan acknowledges shouldn’t have taken place.

Questions remained about whether Hogan restricted his movements as required upon returning from Brussels. 

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