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Thursday, 22 October 2020

EU trade commissioner resigns after Covid-19 breach claims

AFP , Wednesday 26 Aug 2020
European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan
File Photo: European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan tendered his resignation on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, after becoming embroiled in controversy over a recent trip home to Ireland and questionable adherence to COVID-19 rules. His activities have come under fire back home amid allegations he skirted the rules other Irish citizens have had to adhere to (AP)
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EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan, a key figure in Brexit talks, resigned on Wednesday, after making a recent trip across Ireland in an apparent breach of three sets of coronavirus guidelines.

"This evening I have tendered my resignation as EU trade commissioner to the president of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen," Hogan said in a statement.

"It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead."

The Irish government said Tuesday that Hogan flouted a trio of coronavirus guidelines during a recent trip to his home country, although the commissioner himself insisted he broke no laws.

According to a statement, Hogan broke a 14-day quarantine after arriving in Ireland and failed to limit his travel in a county in the midst of a localised lockdown.

He also attended a parliamentary golf club dinner on August 19, in breach of coronavirus restrictions on social gathering numbers announced just 24 hours earlier in a bid to curb a surge in cases.

The evening was attended by around 80 diners -- including a cabinet minister, a supreme court judge and lawmakers from Ireland's upper and lower houses of parliament.

It is now being investigated by police and has prompted a series of high-level resignations in Irish politics, including agriculture minister Dara Calleary and deputy chair of the upper house of parliament Jerry Buttimer.

Hogan originally declined to apologise for attending the event and details of his movements across Ireland have emerged over the last week.

The scandal was compounded after it was revealed that he was pulled over by an Irish police officer for using his phone while driving.

Earlier on Wednesday Irish prime minister Micheal Martin said the government felt anger and annoyance at "the degree to which the commissioner has undermined public confidence in adherence to the health guidelines.

"We're very clear on all three fronts he breached the guidelines," he told reporters in Dublin.

Hogan, in his statement, said: "I have always tried to comply with all relevant Covid-19 regulations in Ireland."

He added: "I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland ... caused such concern, unease and upset."

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