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EU chief Phil Hogan scuttles back to Brussels as Taoiseach and Tanaiste ask him to 'consider his position'


EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has scuttled back to his Brussels bolthole amid calls for him to resign over Golfgate.

The Fine Gael politician was one  of more than 80 people who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society bash which led to the resignation of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary.

He was spotted aboard a Ryanair flight out of Dublin Airport yesterday morning as sources hinted he had hastily booked his seat the night before.

Mr Hogan, who initially refused to apologise for attending the golf function in Galway, is expected back in his office as EU Trade Commissioner tomorrow.

He had been isolating at an address following his return from the Belgian capital and broke local lockdown to attend Wednesday’s event.



EU Commissioner Phil Hogan

Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar asked Mr Hogan yesterday to “consider his position”.

A Government spokesman said: “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 action.”

Midlands North-West MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan said the president of the European Commission needs to sanction Mr Hogan.

He said: “His position is not tenable, Micheal Martin got rid of Dara Calleary for doing the exact same thing.

“So now he needs to talk to Ursula von der Leyen to tell her that Phil Hogan needs to be removed from his position.”



Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister for Climate Action Communications Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan leaving the Cabinet Meeting in Dublin Castle this afternoon

GP and ex-Clare TD Dr Michael Harty is the latest to admit his attendance at the function in Clifden.

He said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly to my profession, my patients, the people of Clare and the wider community.

“To attend this dinner showed very poor deliberation and leadership. I put myself in a situation which breached public health guidelines.”

The civil servant with responsibility for health and safety in the Oireachtas was also present at the golf outing which breached Covid-19 guidelines.

John Flaherty, the Captain of the Guard in Leinster House, has responsibility for the day-to-day management of Oireachtas staff and Covid-19 rules.



Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking to RTE News

One Oireachtas employee said his presence at the event was “very serious”.

Opposition parties last night reiterated calls for the Dail to be recalled over the scandal.

The Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister Eamon Ryan last night agreed the Dail should be recalled following the reopening of schools.

The Taoiseach will make the request to the Ceann Comhairle tomorrow.

Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly said: “The Government needs to get a hold of this situation. We need the Dail back.”

Leas Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly voiced her anger at the mixed messages being sent out by the coalition.

She said: “There appears to be a complete absence of leadership.

“We use one type of language to say we’re all in this together and yet we do the exact opposite out in Clifden.”

President of the Oireachtas Golf Society Donie Cassidy said he will “fully co-operate” with a Garda probe into the now infamous Galway function.



Donie Cassidy

The ex-TD and Senator, who organised the dinner, said he “apologised unreservedly” for his role at the three-star Station House Hotel event.

He added: “It was not our intention to disregard Government or health authorities’ advice.”

The breach of public health recommendations – one day after rules limiting indoor gatherings were announced – has sparked a Garda investigation.

Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe could, along with the other guests, be called as a witness to a criminal inquiry.

Officers may quiz attendees, though investigators may have enough evidence from speaking to organisers, hotel staff and viewing CCTV footage.

Last night, Kildare TD James Lawless, who turned down an invitation to the golf shindig, condemned how it was run.

He said: “I never like calling for people to resign, it’s not really my style.

“But I think his [Phil Hogan’s] apology didn’t go far enough. He very much needs to do more.” Meanwhile, a Kildare publican expressed outrage as the county faces into a second fortnight of local lockdown.

Declan Kennedy, owner of Brady’s Clockhouse Bar in Maynooth, said the double standards were hard to take.

Mr Kennedy told RTE Radio One’s Brendan O’Connor: “How can the Dail stand there and say, no, you, a small public house in a rural area, cannot open your doors for people?”

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach is seeking a spin doctor as he backpedals from the latest controversy to hit his coalition.

Fianna Fail is inviting applications for the head of communications and press officer as it reels from PR crisis to crisis.



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