EU Commissioner Phil Hogan sat down with RTE’s Tony Connelly today to discuss the Clifden golf controversy and the major political fallout that we’ve seen as a result.
Mr Hogan submitted a report on the manner in which he travelled to an Oireachtas Golf Society event in Galway last week to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
However, reports have since emerged that Hogan was in Limerick on the day before his 14-day period of restricted movements when reentering the country was reached.
‘I checked with hotel authorities and I also checked with the organisers that they were complying with COVID-19 regulations,’ Mr Hogan said of making his decision to attend the event.
‘And I received all the assurances that I needed.
‘And I was even reassured when I was told a government minister was going to be in attendance that was speaking at the event so I didn’t expect there was going to any difficulties with the COVID-19 regulations.’
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan speaks to @tconnellyRTE about the controversy surrounding the golf dinner in Clifden, and the fallout | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 https://t.co/yyEHWFxo75
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
This evening, many across the country watched as Hogan was grilled by Tony Connelly on RTE News as calls for his resignation continue.
He continued to deny breaching guidelines upon returning to the country.
‘I am satisfied arising from the test that I did that was negative that I was no risk to anybody,’ Hogan told RTE.
‘In hindsight, I was wrong, I made a mistake and I shouldn’t have gone,’ he added addressing the infamous event.
‘When I think of all the people that have cancelled weddings and events at these hotels but also people that have lost loved ones as a result of COVID-19, a gathering of a number like that in any particular venue at the moment is wrong and I made a mistake and I apologise for it.
‘At the end of the day, I asked the basic question — were they in compliance with COVID-19 regulations and government policy and I was assured at all times that we were.’
When the decision by Enda Kenny to not attend based on the arrangements for the event was mentioned to Mr Hogan, he replied:
‘It wasn’t appropriate for me to be attending and I made a big mistake by doing that and it’s a very big embarrassment and I apologise for doing so.
However, when asked about whether he put members of the public at risk with his movements in the 14-day period after returning to Ireland, Mr Hogan said:
‘I didn’t put anyone at risk because I had already been tested for COVID-19 and it was clear. I put nobody at risk because I was in compliance with the regulations.
‘But what I did make a big mistake about was going to the event.’
“I didn’t put anyone at risk, because I had already been tested and was clear”
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan says he put nobody at risk at the event because he was in compliance with the regulations, but says going to the event was a mistake | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 pic.twitter.com/RiMbkDCBRn
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
Mr Hogan was then presented with a reminder that HSE guidelines state that you must self-isolate for 14 days after returning from a country outside of the government’s green list whether or not you have tested negative for the virus immediately upon your return.
‘I spent a number of days in hospital and while I was there, I did all of the necessary treatments that were required and I was tested for COVID-19 and I tested free of COVID-19.
‘And this meant that I was no longer required to be in self-isolation or quarantine.’
‘I self-isolated for the days up until the 5th of August. I was required to go to hospital. I tested negative for COVID-19. My doctor said I free to go but I didn’t take that for granted,’ he said.
‘I looked at the consumer information website which is looked at by hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland which is funded by the HSE which is the Citizen’s Information website.
‘It’s clear on that website that if you test negative for COVID-19, you will no longer be required to self-isolate.’
Connelly again reminded Mr Hogan of the guidelines and that there is a ‘distinction to be made’ between the guidelines for those returning to the country and those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Hogan then questioned if ‘the state agencies are saying they are giving out wrong information’.
Hogan said he ‘didn’t accept’ the HSE’s distinction between restrictions.
Initially, a spokesperson for Mr Hogan claimed that he travelled ‘directly’ from Co Kilkenny to Clifden, but subsequent statements have confirmed that the former TD also travelled to Co Kildare, which is under lockdown, to collect personal items and work-related documents from his residence at the K-Club.
It has also emerged that Mr Hogan was stopped by members of An Garda Siochana in Co Kildare for using a mobile phone while driving.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar have appealed to Mr Hogan to consider his position following the so-called Golf Gate scandal, which has already resulted in the resignation of Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary and leas cathaoirleach of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer.