EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan was under continued pressure on Monday, days after it emerged that he attended an 81-person dinner that breached coronavirus guidelines in Ireland.
As trade commissioner, Hogan occupies one of the most powerful roles in the European Union, and oversees the sprawling arm of the bloc that negotiates trade deals and commercial policy.
In the wake of Brexit and amid global trade tensions, Hogan’s role has taken on increasing prominence.
Hogan, a former Irish government minister, on Sunday offered what he called a “fulsome and profound apology” for attending the dinner, which was organised by the golf society of Ireland’s parliament.
Housing minister Darragh O’Brien on Monday said that he should take responsibility for his actions and resign from his position, while European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen demanded “further clarifications” from Hogan.
The fresh calls came two days after Irish prime minister Micheál Martin and his deputy Leo Varadkar said that the commissioner should consider his position.
Many senior figures in Ireland are reluctant to push more fervently for his resignation, particularly because his appointment was seen as a powerful signal that the EU would prioritise Ireland’s interests in Brexit negotiations.
Though Hogan was appointed by the Irish government, as an EU commissioner he is accountable to von der Leyen.
On 20 August, the Irish Examiner newspaper revealed that the dinner had taken place in Galway, contrary to official government public health advice that had been issued two days prior.
It has since emerged that several high-profile figures — including Hogan, a government minister, and a Supreme Court judge — attended the event.
Though agriculture minister Dara Calleary resigned in the wake of the scandal, Hogan maintains that he had believed the gathering would be in compliance with government guidelines.
Hogan also claimed that he “complied fully with the government’s quarantine requirements,” which stipulate that travellers should isolate for 14 days upon arriving in the country.
But it has since emerged that Hogan stopped in Co Kildare, which is under a local lockdown, to “collect personal belongings and essential documents relating to the EU-US trade negotiations.”
And upon travelling to Galway for the event, Hogan was stopped by police for using his mobile phone while driving.
Speaking on Monday, Martin said he would like Hogan to give a “very comprehensive statement” outlining his reasons for travelling to Kildare.
Earlier, housing minister O’Brien had criticised what he called a “drip feed” of information about Hogan's movements in Ireland, calling it “unhelpful to say the least.”
“I wish to apologise fully and unreservedly for attending the Oireachtas golf society dinner on Wednesday night last,” Hogan said on Sunday.
“I realise fully the unnecessary stress, risk and offence caused to the people of Ireland by my attendance at such an event, at such a difficult time for all, and I am extremely sorry for this.”