The Irish Commissioner for trade, Phil Hogan, is under attack in his own country, and in Brussels too people are frowning. Hogan was at a dinner on the west coast of Ireland last week. He was there with over 80 leading politicians. Piquant detail: it was a day after the already strict corona measures in Ireland had been further tightened due to the increasing number of outbreaks.
One of these measures was to limit the number of people attending meetings. The Irish police have launched an investigation into violation of the quarantine rules and Hogan has apologized. The incident took place during a dinner of the Gulf Society of the Irish parliament at a hotel in Clifden and is now called ‘Golfgate’.
The minister of Agriculture, the vice-president of the Senate and a Supreme Court Judge present resigned after the criticism and other politicians apologized. The call for Hogan’s resignation from Ireland is getting louder, but he says he does not intend to. He says he’s convinced he didn’t break the rules.
So he apologized and said that he was aware that he had struck a nerve with the Irish. “My presence has caused unnecessary stress, risks and irritation. In particular, I would like to apologize to all those who have lost loved ones in this pandemic.”
Prime Minister Martin is not yet convinced and has said on Irish television that he and the Irish want ‘absolute guarantees’ that the restrictive measures have not been broken. “That would be very, very serious.”
“The pressure on Hogan in Ireland is growing by the minute,” says correspondent Tim De Wit from London. “Especially that in his earlier statements he did not reveal all the facts, is heavily charged to him. He should have come clean right away.”
Prime Minister Martin has already called Hogan to consider leaving. “And that says a lot,” the White knows. “Hogan is well respected in Ireland. In addition, it is ideal for Ireland, which, as a neighbour of the United Kingdom, is facing the toughest blow of the brexit, to have an Irishman as trade commissioner in Brussels.”
European Commission President Von der Leyen has now asked for clarification.
“In the end, it must decide whether Hogan can stay on, as he himself believes that an excuse is enough,” says EU correspondent Thomas Spekschoor. “This will be a complex consideration: Hogan has an important role in the commission, he is responsible as an Irishman for trade when a trade agreement with the British also needs to be concluded, because of the Brexit.”
Hogan not only went to dinner, he was also caught making phone calls at the wheel last week. “No intervention by Von der Leyen would be strange,” says Spekschoor.
The Irish parliament has come back early from the summer recess to discuss the matter. MEPs also believe that the government should come back from vacation. They believe that the resignation of the agriculture minister in particular should be quickly replaced, due to corona outbreaks on livestock farms.
They also believe that there should be an end to the confusion about restrictions.