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EU Trade Commissioner apologizes for attending the golf dinner

Phil Hogan

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Phil Hogan attended an Irish Parliamentary Golf Society event at a County Galway hotel on Wednesday

EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has “fully and unreservedly”

; apologized for attending a dinner in the west of Ireland with more than 80 people.

Mr Hogan said he recognized that his presence at the golf event “hit a nerve” with the Irish.

The Irish Government has agreed to give an early reminder to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) as it involves political figures attending the Galway meeting.

It was supposed to return on September 15th.

The Gardaí (Irish Police) inspector has also been found to be stopped for using his cell phone on August 17th in County Kildare.

The county has strict restrictions that prevent people from entering and leaving the country, except in exceptional cases.

A spokesman for Mr Hogan told Irish national broadcaster RTÉ that the incident happened on the way from Kilkenny to Kildare in order to collect “personal effects and important documents” at his home before heading to Galway for the golf event.

The spokesman said, “Kildare’s ban policy provides for exceptional travel outside of the county to get back to work and home.”

No resignation

Mr Hogan will not step down from his position, his spokesman also told RTÉ News.

As EU trade commissioner, Mr Hogan, a former Irish minister, would have free trade negotiations with the UK if and when they start after Brexit.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin will request that the Dáil be called back to the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker) on Monday.

The coalition government has agreed that the Dáil should be recalled after the schools reopen.

Opposition politicians had called for the recall following the dinner controversy that had already called for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary, who had also attended the event.

Irish police are investigating whether the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner violated Covid-19 regulations.

The event took place one day after stricter lockdown restrictions were announced.

“Unnecessary stress, risk and abuse”

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Hogan said he especially wanted to apologize to the wonderful health care workers who continue to risk their lives to fight Covid-19 and all the people who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.

“I admit my actions touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, which I am deeply sorry about,” he said.

“I fully recognize the unnecessary stress, risk and offense that attending such an event at such a difficult time has caused the people of Ireland for everyone and I am very sorry for that,” he added.

He said he spoke to Taoiseach and Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar yesterday and reported to the President of the European Commission.

Mr Hogan has reportedly come under pressure to review his position.

The Sunday Independent reported that Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar would like the EU Trade Commissioner to review his position.

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin will ask that the Dáil return on Monday

Mr Varadkar told RTÉ News on Sunday that he welcomed Mr Hogan’s apology but that further clarification was required.

The return date for the Dáil has not yet been confirmed, but is expected to be early next month.

Recall pressure

The decision to recall the Dáil was made by Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Greens.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke on RTÉ News on Friday about the return of the Dáil, saying the event was “the last straw for many people”.

The return was also called for by Labor Leader Alan Kelly and Social Democratic Co-Leader Catherine Murphy.

In addition to Agriculture Secretary Dara Calleary, Jerry Buttimer, who served as Leas-Chathaoirleach (Deputy Chairman of the Irish Senate), resigned after attending the event.

The President of the Oireachtas Golf Society has “unreservedly” apologized for the injuries caused by the dinner.

Other people present included Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe and independent TD (MP) Noel Grealish.

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