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Phil Hogan 'regrets and apologises' for attendance at golfing event after public outcry

Taoiseach Micheál Martin had called on Hogan to offer a ‘meaningful response’.

A spokesperson for Phil Hogan said that he apologised.
A spokesperson for Phil Hogan said that he apologised.
Image: Moritz Frankenberg/DPA/PA Images

Updated Aug 21st 2020, 7:28 PM

EU TRADE COMMISSIONER Phil Hogan has apologised for attending the Oireachtas Golf Society event in Cliden, Co Galway. 

This evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin called on Hogan to apologise for his attendance at the dinner in Galway this week.

Speaking during a sit-down interview on RTÉ’s Six One News this evening, Martin also stated that he would not recall the Dáil from its summer recess over the controversy, which has seen the resignation of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary today. 

EU Trade Commissioner Hogan attended the Oireachtas Golf Society event last Wednesday, along with 80 other people at a hotel in Clifden. 

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

However, he did not apologise as part of his statement, and the Taoiseach called on him to do so in order to address the anger felt by the public.

“I think he should apologise, and I think he should be far more fulsome in his response to this and should understand the anger that we spoke about earlier,” Martin said.

“He is a member of the European Commission. He is not within the jurisdiction of the Irish government.

“I would like a meaningful response to the mood of the public and the anger of the public towards this issue.”

A spokesperson for Hogan this evening said that he “regretted and apologises” for attending the event. 

The spokesperson said that Hogan, through a European Commission spokesperson earlier in Brussels, had “clarified that he did apologise”. 

“He would not have attended if he understood it was not in compliance with public health guidelines.”

“The Taoiseach may not have been aware that the commissioner had expressed his regret earlier,” the spokesperson said. 

Earlier, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly declined to express confidence in Hogan’s position.

“The issue for the Commissioner is beyond the remit for this government,” Donnelly responded. 

It is not my place to express confidence. It is a matter for the commissioner and for the European Commission.

“The commissioner has stated his position, my understanding is that that’s being looked at.” 

Donnelly was asked a number of questions about the golf event as he appeared alongside the acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn to announce an extension of the public health measures affecting Kildare for a further two weeks.

At one point in the press conference, an advisor to Donnelly appealed to journalists present to stop asking questions about the controversy – before the minister and Glynn proceeded to answer further questions on the matter, which has generated significant public anger since news of the dinner broke last night.

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

The Commissioner also confirmed 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 said. 

Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary resigned this morning due to his attendance at the event. 

The Irish Examiner, which first reported the story, alleged that up to 10 people were seated at tables.

The event appears to have breached public health guidelines, which state that no events, parties or gatherings involving more than six people should be held indoors. 

Gardaí are investigating into the event. Stephen Donnelly said “it simply shouldn’t have happened”. 

With reporting from Stephen McDermott and Dominic McGrath

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