Irish prime minister and deputy call on EU trade chief Hogan to quit
The Irish agriculture minister resigned and several other politicians were disciplined on Friday after it transpired they were among more than 80 guests at a hotel dinner
Ireland’s prime minister and his deputy have asked European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, Ireland’s representative to the EU, to consider his position over his attendance at an event being investigated for breaching Covid-19 restrictions.
The Irish agriculture minister, Dara Calleary, resigned and several other politicians were disciplined on Friday after it transpired they were among more than 80 guests at a hotel dinner hosted by parliament’s golf society at a Galway hotel.
Less than a day before the event, the Irish government said it would reverse some of its lockdown easing measures to deal with a surge of Covid-19 cases. Public health advice prohibits indoor gatherings of more than six people to slow the spread of the virus.
Mr Hogan also attended the event in the west of Ireland that has caused public outrage and is under police investigation for alleged breaches of public health regulations. He apologised on Friday and said he attended on the clear understanding that it would comply with guidelines.
“The Taoiseach (prime minister) and the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) did speak with Commissioner Hogan today and asked him to consider his position,” a government spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“They both believe that the event should never have been held, that the Commissioner’s apology came late and that he still needs to give a full account and explanations of his actions.”
Irish national broadcaster RTE quoted a spokesperson for Mr Hogan as saying there would be no response this evening to the call that he consider his position. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The EU trade commissioner, a former minister from Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party, was appointed to the Commission’s agriculture brief in 2014 and given the influential position of trade chief upon his reappointment last year.
He has led trade talks with the United States and has a key role in negotiations over Britain’s post-Brexit trading relationship with the bloc.
He considered a bid to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation in June before deciding against running.
Only on Wednesday, Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the republic was “at the tipping point” after weekly cases surged from 61 a few weeks ago to 533 last week.
As well as restricting social gatherings indoors, crowds attending outdoor events, including sports, have since been reduced from 200 to 15.
Those aged over 70 are again being asked to shelter in their homes as much as possible and workers are encouraged to work remotely.
There are more than 27,908 known cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and the country has seen over 1,700 deaths.
Updated: August 23, 2020 02:51 PM