Thursday

24th Sep 2020

EU trade chief Phil Hogan resigns in 'GolfGate' scandal

  • Irish authorities earlier this month urge trade commissioner Phil Hogan to consider his position (Photo: European Commission)

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan resigned on Wednesday evening (26 Agustus) after the Irish government accused him of breaking anti-coronavirus rules during his last trip to Ireland.

"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 in a statement.

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"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," he added.

The commissioner insisted that he did not break any law, although he "should have been more rigorous" in adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines.

Ireland's prime minister Micheál Martin told reporters on Wednesday that Hogan had "undermined the whole approach to public health in Ireland" by flouting anti-coronavirus rules.

During holiday time in his home country, Hogan attended a golf dinner with some 80 participants when the rules legally required him to restrict his movements for 14 days.

Additionally, it was reported that Hogan entered and exited County Kildare, where residents were not allowed to leave county except for stated work or medical reasons due to the high rate of coronavirus infection.

After the European Commission and Hogan himself tried to water down the affair, the three parties of the Irish coalition government publicly stated that the commissioner committed "clear breaches" of the national Covid-19 rules.

The Irish government welcomed the EU trade chief's resignation, describing it as "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 three governing parties said in a joint statement.

Earlier this month, the Irish prime minister and foreign minister urged Hogan to consider his position on his €270,000 a year EU post.

On Tuesday evening, Hogan rendered account of his 20-days trip in Ireland to the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with a report that details the timeline of his movements during his trip.

In the memorandum, Hogan said that he was in isolation until he received a negative Covid-19 test result.

However, two different eyewitnesses told the Irish Times that commissioner Hogan had been seen in a public restaurant and a resort when he was supposedly self-isolating - putting into question Hogan's report.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen thanked Hogan for his "tireless work as a trade commissioner".

"He was a valuable and respected member of the college," she said.

"I wish him all the best for the future," she added.

Meanwhile, the Irish police is investigating what happened at the golf dinner, the so-called "GolfGate" affair that made two senior Irish politicians resigned.

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