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'Golfgate' EU commissioner Phil Hogan: I'm sorry but I broke no rules

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Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan: ‘I should not have attended this dinner’

Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan: ‘I should not have attended this dinner’

Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan: ‘I should not have attended this dinner’

The EU's trade commissioner has said he broke no public health regulations while in the Irish Republic.

Phil Hogan provided 20 pages of documents to the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen after she requested further details of his trip home earlier this month.

The senior politician said he believed he complied with rules designed to limit spread of coronavirus in the country.

Mr Hogan was among 81 guests who attended a controversial golf dinner in the west of Ireland.

He returned to the Republic on July 31 and was required to restrict his movements for 14 days.

In a document published on the European Commission website, Mr Hogan said he tested negative for Covid-19 while in hospital for treatment on August 5 and claimed that "ended the self-restriction period".

He told Irish broadcaster RTE: "I am satisfied arising from the test that I did that proved it was negative that I was no risk to anybody.

"Because of the fact that I had a negative test. Because my medical people said I was no risk to anybody.

"I checked with the Citizens Information website which is funded by the HSE and I felt that I was no risk to anybody by going to Adare.

"I understand the perception. I was covered by the regulations for my work-related activities and under the regulation there is a reasonable excuse mechanism that allowed me the exemption to do that."

The Irish Health Department responded last night, saying: "Health Service Executive (HSE) guidance states that when someone is restricting their movements because they are a close contact of a confirmed case or because they have travelled into Ireland from a non-green list country, they must do so for 14 days.

"The HSE guidance does not state that a negative (not detected) Covid-19 test shortens the 14-day restricted movement requirement."

Following a request from Ms von der Leyen, Mr Hogan published a timeline of his movements in Ireland in which he revealed he played golf in Adare, Co Limerick, before returning to Kilkenny on August 13.

Another 92 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic, the Health Department said. Police are investigating whether coronavirus regulations were broken in holding the Irish Parliament's golf society event two days after the Government announced it intended to curb the numbers permitted to gather together.

The trade and former agriculture commissioner has also been urged to consider his position by the leaders of the Republic's coalition Government, Micheal Martin and Mr Varadkar, after attending the dinner at a hotel in Clifden with a number of senior politicians and public figures.

The row has prompted more resignations in a new Government which has struggled to find its feet amid the pandemic.

Pressure has been building on Mr Hogan to step down from his EU role.

In his latest statement, he said: "At the outset I fully accept that it is abundantly clear that the event should not have been held and that I should not have attended this dinner. I accept this and have made a full apology to the Irish people for having done so.

"I was an invited guest to the event on August 19, 2020 and was assured by the organisers and the hotel that it was being held in full compliance with all relevant Covid-19 rules.

"I had no reason to question or doubt that assurance, particularly in circumstances where an Irish Government Minister was attending and speaking at the event."

Belfast Telegraph