Phil Hogan tee'd off in Holland before arriving back in Ireland
BIG Phil Hogan travelled between two coronavirus-hit countries to play golf in the weeks before he attended the infamous ‘golfgate’ dinner in Galway sparking a major political crisis.
Amid public fury, last night calls were growing for EU Commissioner Hogan to resign following the example of ex-Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and Leas Cathaoirleach Jerry Buttimer,
The news that 81 people were at the Oireachtas Golf Society event in apparent breach of coronavirus restrictions this week has caused outrage.
The Sunday World can reveal that the golf-loving EU big-wig Hogan also travelled to the Netherlands in the weeks before he came to Ireland to take part in another golf tournament.
In the first week of July, he travelled from Brussels to the Netherlands to take part in a tournament organised by the Irish Wild Geese golf society.
There were no travel restrictions between Belgium and the Netherlands at the time, although both countries are deemed unsafe for travel by the Irish government.
The number of new cases per 100,000 people in both countries is almost double the rate in Ireland.
Around three weeks after travelling to the Netherlands for the golf outing, Mr Hogan flew to Ireland, where he was required to restrict his movements for two weeks.
The Commissioner stayed at a property in the K Club in Co.
Kildare when he returned to Ireland but left before the county was put under lockdown.
He then travelled to Dublin to meet Tánaiste Leo Varadkar for a trade meeting before the end of the period when he was supposed to restrict his movements.
A spokesperson for the Commissioner has confirmed his attendance at the golf event in the Netherlands and said “at the time there were no travel restrictions between Belgium and the Netherlands”.
The long-established Irish Wild Geese Golf Society is based in Brussels. Its membership is mostly made up of bureaucrats and politicians who work in EU institutions.
Meanwhile, a former TD who also attended the dinner in Clifden told the Sunday World he has “no regrets”.
Gerry Brady, who held a Dáil seat in Kildare in 1982 is a member of the golf society and had been at the dinner with his wife Aine, also a former Fianna Fáil TD and a junior minister.
As he took suitcases from his car yesterday at his Co Kildare home he declined to talk about the controversy which now threatens the government and the careers of a European Commissioner and a Supreme Court judge.
“I’m just back from my annual holiday, literally in the door. I’m going to unpack my car,” said Mr Brady who is well-known auctioneer in the county.
Asked if he had any regrets about attending the function said: “I’ve no regrets, I was on a two-week holiday, I’m back just this minute.”
His wife Áine had also served as Fianna Fáil TD between 2007 and 2011 was Minister of State with responsibility for older people.
The couple were both listed as being on a table for ten at the event held in the Station House Hotel in the popular Galway resort town.
Co. Kildare went into lockdown two weeks along with Laois and Offaly with residents told not leave their counties.
This week, Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary resigned his Cabinet post and apologised for attending the gathering,saying that he” should have had the cop-on not to go to the event”.
Senator Jerry Buttimer, who also attended the event, resigned his post a Leas Cathaoirleach after what he called his “unintended but serious lapse of judgement.”
There were calls for EU Commissioner Phil Hogan to resign his post this weekend; the EU high roller apologised for “the distress caused” by attending the event in Co Galway.
Mr Hogan, who holds a key role in the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU, has previously talked about playing with the golf society during his down time in Brussels.
He is currently on holidays in Ireland and also stayed with a family member in Kilkenny.
He has been in contact with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and she had accepted his explanation, it has been stated by his spokesperson.
When the controversy broke this week after The Examiner newspaper revealed details of the event Mr Hogan tweeted a brief statement to confirm he had been at the dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of the society.
He said he had gone “on the clear understanding that the organisers and the hotel concerned had been assured [by the Irish Hotels’ Federation] that the arrangements put in place would be in compliance with the Government’s guidelines.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that Commissioner Hogan “should be far more fulsome in his response, and should understand the anger across the country”.
Later, Mr Hogan’s spokesman said the commissioner “does apologise for any distress caused by his attendance” at the dinner.
Labour leader Alan Kelly led calls for the EU Commissioner to resign, describing his position following the fiasco as being “untenable.”