European Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan of Ireland speaks as he attends his hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan apologised again on Sunday for attending an event in his native Ireland that may have breached COVID-19 regulations, but stopped short of bowing to calls from Irish leaders to resign.
The Irish representative on the EU executive commission was asked on Saturday by Ireland’s prime minister and deputy prime minister to consider his position after his attendance at a golf dinner caused public outrage and led to other political resignations.
Hogan, who offered an initial apology on Friday only after Prime Minister Micheal Martin demanded one, said on Sunday he had listened carefully to Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s views.
Two EU officials said Hogan was acknowledging the call to consider his position, but was opting for an apology and explanation route that would probably allow him to stay on.
“I acknowledge my actions have touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, something for which I am profoundly sorry,” Hogan said in a statement, adding that his attendance had caused “unnecessary stress, risk and offense”.
“I want, in particular, to apologise to… all people who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.”
Hogan said he has been reporting to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the event in recent days.
An Irish cabinet minister quit and other lawmakers were disciplined on Friday for being among over 80 guests at a hotel dinner hosted by parliament’s golf society, the night after COVID-19 restrictions were significantly tightened.
The event has damaged the government’s credibility in the fight against the virus at a time when infections are rising. It has also infuriated people who have been unable to attend funerals or cancelled holidays or weddings because of the rules.