EU trade commissioner steps down over breach of Ireland’s Covid rules

Dublin, Aug 26 (efe-epa).- The European Union’s trade commissioner, Phil Hogan, resigned Wednesday amid an uproar in his native Ireland over his failure to respect Covid-19 regulations during a recent visit to the island.

“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work,” he said in a statement announcing his resignation.

Hogan came under pressure after to quit the EU post after the coalition government in Dublin criticized him for having attended a dinner of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) Golf Society where more than 80 people were present.

“I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset,” Hogan said in his statement.

“I reiterate my heartfelt apology to the Irish people for the mistakes I made during my visit. The Irish people have made incredible efforts to contain the coronavirus, and the European Commission will continue to support you, and all EU member states, in defeating this terrible pandemic,” he said.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who had asked Hogan to give an account of his visit to Ireland after #GolfGate became a scandal, accepted the resignation.

“I respect his decision. I am grateful for his work as a Trade Commissioner and a member of my team,” she said on Twitter.

Hogan, 60, arrived in Ireland from Brussels on July 31 and went to his temporary residence in Kildare. In an interview Tuesday night with RTE television he said that because he tested negative for coronavirus on Aug. 5, he was not required to quarantine.

Yet the Irish health department’s guidelines require anyone who enters the country from a nation not on the “green list” to self-isolate for 14 days.

Belgium is not on the green list and the guidelines don’t make provision for a shorter quarantine period based on a negative Covid-19 test.

Ireland’s coalition government, which includes Hogan’s Fine Gael party, said that he should have quarantined for 14 days and skipped the golf club dinner.

The event took place on Aug. 19, a day after health officials slashed the number of people permitted at indoor gatherings from 50 to six.

Prime Minister Micheal Martin, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Green Party chief Eamon Ryan endorsed Hogan’s choice to step down from the European Commission.

“While this must have been a difficult decision for him personally, we believe that it is the correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week. We all have a responsibility to support and adhere to public health guidelines and regulations,” they said in a joint statement.

Under commission rules, Von der Leyen must name a new commissioner from Ireland, but the replacement Irish representative is not guaranteed to succeed Hogan in the high-profile trade post.

Hogan, who spent 25 years as a lawmaker and Cabinet minister in Ireland before becoming EU agriculture commissioner in 2014, was seen as an increasingly important figure in Brussels. EFE


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