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This guy dying for its speed pressure on Phil Hogan to resign as EU trade commissioner continues after he spoke to ITV News last night about the golf gate controversy.
Speaking to Tony Connolly, Phil Hogan said he regretted going to the Iraqis Golf Society event last Wednesday.
I made a mistake by going to that event. I am embarrassed about it when I see all of the various tragedies around the country arising from corporate regulations. I know I should not have been there. I've apologized for that profusely. I think of all the people that have suffered bereavement, I think at the frontline workers and the gathering of that nature was not appropriate in this time. There is no excuse for this.
You've said yourself in your second statement that you did put people at risk by being there because you had come from a high risk country. No, I didn't put anyone at risk because I had already been tested for covid-19. It was clear I put nobody at risk because I was in compliance with the regulations. But what I did make a big mistake about is going to the event. And you're right that it should not have been there. And the gatherings of that numbers in this difficult time for people at home was wrong.
Despite apologizing for attending the event, he denied breaching covid-19 quarantine rules. He argued that despite him arriving from a non greenlees country, Belgium, he tested negative for covid-19, which therefore exempted him from the requirement to restrict his movements for 14 days and constraints when he returned from the European Council in July, where they itself facilities for the day is up to the 5th of August.
I was required to go to hospital. I tested negative for Korvettes. I was covered for you. My doctor said it was free to go, but I didn't take that for granted. I looked at the Consumer Information website, which is read by hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland, which is funded by the Hejazi, which is the Citizen's Information website. And it's clear on that website clearly stated that if you test negative for covid-19, you'll get your you'll get your result by a text message and you will no longer be required to self isolate.
But it's very clear. But that's in the context of having self isolated due to symptoms. It's an entirely different requirement when you're coming in from outside the country. And our news has checked with the health line today on that point. And they say even if you're covered negative, even if you've done the test, you're still subject to the 14 day restricted movements regime. Well, I think that people in Ireland, I believe, are very reasonable people.
You know, these are the rules. I was obliged to have restricted movements in the first few days, which I did. I then unexpectedly have to go to hospital for a medical intervention. My doctors tested me for covid-19 and I was offered free and I was no risk to anybody, so I was free to go, according to my medical people.
The Department of Health has since reiterated that a person is required to restrict movements for 14 days if they arrive into Ireland from a green this country. Now, Phil Hogan also said that on the 17th of August, he travelled from Canticle County to County Galway via County Kildare, and he said he stopped briefly in County Kildare at the property he'd been staying in to collect some essential paperwork.
These were handwritten notes to warrant security documents that were notes to myself and which are covered under the regulations under the basis of reasonable excuse arising from work. So you know the regulations well. You've studied them carefully for this interview. You'll know exactly that. This particular visit to my apartment in Kildare was covered by the regulation. He played golf for both days in Clifton. And you attended the dinner. I mean, at what point were you able to to conduct sensitive trade negotiations with him?
Well, we do have a different timeline to the United States. So, you know, I can organise my guys to make sure that I have a significant amount of time in the evening in Ireland to be able to converse with the United States in this case. Ambassador Lighthizer. And we do that on almost a daily basis during that week. So I understand the perception. I made mistake by being, you know, there at that day and being stopped for lifting a mobile phone.
But I was covered by the regulations in relation to my work related activities. And under the regulations, there is a reasonable excuse mechanism there that allowed me the exemption to do that.
Now to talk about all of this political pressure with the Irish Examiner, Danny McConnell is on the line. Danny, good morning. Good morning.
Looking at our Twitter poll and, you know, Twitter polls are representative of people who are on Twitter and no other than those, but they have little sympathy for Phil Hogan, 60 percent saying he should lose his job.
As you were in European commissioner for trade, 24 percent think he should keep his job. 15 percent feel a different punishment is in order what that would be. And so that's how the Twitter rati are thinking. How do you think this is playing at the moment?
Well, without question. I think the there was a pretty strong reaction from government ministers to his interview with Tony Connolly last night. They felt the tone was wrong. The fact that he essentially, by his own version of events, he essentially confirmed that he had breached the political guidelines on multiple occasions, gone from trying to declare when it was unlocked in two by being in Galway on the night in question of event with more than the required or the allowed number of people.
And through this issue of cutting cutting short his quarantine period, there are three identifiable breaches that he knows he can test those. But it's very clear the HSC. Right. Pretty quickly, of course, a journalistic inquiry is last night to make it absolutely clear that if you come from a non Greenglass country, the quarantine period is 14 days and 14 days, no matter if you're tested or not. So I think so Hoban's defence kind of did kind of wither pretty quickly, albeit as dossier, you know, on surface.
And maybe, you know, the box in Brussels may not be as intimately involved with the ins and outs of the Irish system, and it may be sufficient to get them over the line there. But certainly from a domestic audience, his arguments don't really stack up. And one of the issues my colleague Paul Hosford revealed yesterday that he was. Actually, in a dare in Limerick, which had not been disclosed previously, and Phil Hogan only included the mention of a deer on the 13th of August.
However, we have heard that he was in the Dunraven Arms the night before. Again, that was before his 14 day isolation period had actually come to an end. No mention of that in his dossier to sort of underline then it subsequently turned out he was in Roscommon among us.
Isn't this all because Phil Hogan is Phil Hogan? I mean, if you came back in from a Greenglass country and were tested and found you were covered free, would you personally feel you were free to go anywhere because you weren't a danger to anyone?
Well, I mean well, I mean, a lot of people like me and everybody else have made huge sacrifices not travelling abroad.
I'm asking you a very specific question, just from your own perspective. If you came in isolated for a few days, then you had a test and they've told you, you're clear. Would you personally feel free to go anywhere?
Well, I was hoping that you would not necessarily be recognised. I might have a different issue because people say that, as Pat Kenny's just back from Brussels, for God's sake, what's he doing in the Dunraven Arms? But as a citizen who might not be quickly recognised, do you not think that people would say, I'm clear, I'm not going to give it to anyone, I'm OK now. I might get it from someone, but I won't give it to anyone?
Well, I think that's I think that's a choice that individuals would make. And I think those sort of personal choices have been made since the start of the lockdown. Ultimately, though, and what is very clear is a huge proportion of the Irish population has sought to adhere very strictly to to the regime and to the regulations. And I'm presuming would have been made clear to Phil Hogan Associates by some public health official or some doctor that the quarantine that got 14 days remained in place.
No, I know he was relying on the Citizens Information website for his defence. But I mean, Tony Connolly has he made it very clear that in very specific circumstances and he later clarified, I mean, what he was tested and asked the 14 days should have been adhered to and clearly he wasn't. The question of, you know, fills role, his importance to us, the fact that he's now an EU official, not an Irish government official.
The likelihood that Arsala Vanderlyn will listen to the tissue can Tannishtha and sanction him in some way, even to the point of forcing his resignation, which, of course, might be legally resisted, is do you think she's likely to do that to allow a national government to call the shots for an EU official?
Well, I think it would be very difficult for her to ignore the sort of the same news coming from the Irish government. However, they've been slightly mixed. I mean, you've had nine ministers like Diana O'Brien being very explicit that Phil Hogan should resign. The three leaders have not gone that far as of yet. Hallmarking kind of hedged his bets on radio yesterday morning or Monday morning, and only of record himself in their commentary to date have not. They have stopped short of calling for Hogan to resign explicitly.
My understanding is that there's been extensive contact between government buildings and officials in a sort of underlines office. Since this controversy has erupted, there has been no direct contact between or sort of underlining the. But there certainly has been plenty of official contact. And it does raise the prospect, however, of a national government, for whatever reason, wanting to take out a new commissioner. And, you know, I've been listened to people make commentary around this over the last 48 hours or so.
But there is an issue for the independence of the commission essentially above national politics, because whatever the merits of this individual case, what would happen if, say, for example, you know, Ireland takes issue with the French commissioner down the line and therefore, can we issue a similar diktat for that person to resign? It would be never ending if that sort of international if that sort of dynamic were to come in. So therefore, the bar for sacking a commissioner for asking the commissioner to resign is extraordinarily high.
That was only one in recent memory who went amid a lobbying scandal. And that case is still subject to litigation. And that is also, according to my sources, weighing heavily on the mind, sort of underline in terms of she's very keen to avoid setting unnecessary precedent here by removing people. I think it would be you know, this is again, I suppose you have to look at this through the filter of this is an all the story that the vast majority of the commission are not in place.
They're still on their holidays and it's filling it's filling the sort of the normal citizens and vacuum in Brussels.
One last point before I go to Mark McSherry.
If you defaulted for Sliger, Leitrim, who's joining us as well, I was remembering when Mehul Martin went to Brussels for his first summit meeting as theCIA. And I asked the question, you know, was he going to isolate when he came home? And they said, no, no, no, he's exempt because what he's doing is essential. OK, so, you know, I the isolator, you don't isolate either your quarantine or you don't quarantine.
But if you're deemed essential and the work you do is essential, you get a buy even though you could be a danger. Yes.
And that's about the whole nuancing that Stephen Donnelly, he wants it every which way. He on the one hand, says that the guidelines that we all found so confusing were nuanced and yet he's saying it's black and white fullfil.
Well, I mean, I would I'm a bit overused. I'm confused myself. And I'm certainly have been we have moved through so many phases in relation to the public health advice. It's been very difficult to keep a pace with the changing instructions or advice from government. However, in relation to Phil Hogan's case that the the guidance was pretty clear, they have not changed that. That element of the guidance hasn't changed since March. So that was absolutely clear in terms of the quarantine aspect of 50 50.
Well, the quarantine issue in terms of the 14 days has been there since since it was introduced the first day. The sort of the 50 limit has been there since since Loten ultimately was brought in. So there's been little or no movement in relation to that. Ultimately, the TGA, given his movements in and out of Brussels, I mean, there is a question mark. I would certainly have a question mark in relation to not quarantining, but I suppose it would it raises all sorts of questions around his ability to do his job as a teacher if he had to quarantine for 14 days every time he had to go to any sort of Brussels.
But I think there are legitimate concerns been raised about that in the strict, if strict adherence to the rules is to be applied. You know, there are exemptions under the customs rules that provide essential workers, etc. like that as well. It's essentially about the odds. You're trying to limit the numbers of people as well as the the smaller the number of people you've are moving and the safer it is. I suppose if you have large numbers of people using those exemptions, that's where problems exist.
And that's why you're probably that's where we can get together, of course, because he's a small number. He and his officials would be a very small number of people at Texas has just been on great deflection from government.
No one was talking about the senators or TDs losing their seats and being forced to step down from their actual seats. Pick out Phil, he's outside the government doesn't affect anything. What do you think of that? I mean, we've had obviously the last look job in the Senate going. We've had Derek O'Leary resigning both as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil and as minister for agriculture. But they're still TDs. They're still getting a pay packet. The government seems to want Big Phil to lose his pay packet entirely.
Well, I would certainly think that in terms I think there clearly has paid a very high price, having wanted to be.
But he still has his basic job. He does a TD and the senators still have their basic job, which is a senator. The government seems to want Big Phil to lose his basic job, which is as commissioner. Is there an element of big Roger here, a political convenience?
Well, I certainly think that if there were had to be more ministers in place there, next would be in the firing line or on the chopping block as well. I just think it's just the nature of this controversy directly was a line government minister. He has paid the price. He resigned very personally, has resigned.
Danny, Danny, if there were three government ministers are four at this golf outing, no one would have resigned. I don't I don't want people going for people going would be the end of the government.
So it's one person.
So that's fine. But you look as if there were four ministers there, it'd be end of government.
Well, you look at you look at the nature of each individual controversy, and it's very rare that you would have such a plethora of people. So therefore, the fact that there clearly was there by himself as a government minister, he obviously was in the firing line straight away and he resigned straightaway. You know, obviously, there have been calls for Seamus Wolfe to resign. There have been calls for him to resign. They are the most senior office holders of all of the people that were gathered in going at the golf event.
It is natural that they are they are the focus of attention. But there were plenty of other people, sitting senators, former senators, former colleagues were in that room. And leading broadcasters like short of workers paid a price himself for his presence at that at that dinner as well. So I think it's natural that the focus has would remain on those who are currently still in office. And I don't think anyone in government would have planned that this is the way things would have happened.
You know, to lose a second agricultural minister in seven weeks is not anybody's plan to do anything. So I don't really buy into the fact that is kind of I will say conspiracy theories were put in line of events. It's just a natural way of how these controversies tend to play out, is that you look at who is in office, you look at who was there and you look at that. And there have been legitimate calls for oppositions aspects to this.
Danny, for example, Catherine McGuinness saying that judges should be very careful about who they mix with and not mixing with politicians and so on. There's another way to to look at that. When you see someone like Seamus Wolf, and he's out there and it's visible. See, I don't know what Catherine McGuinness once for judges in terms of their social life, who do they meet? Do they meet only judges? And then those judges have spouses who could be in politics, they could be in business, and they have them for dinner in their own homes.
We don't know who the hell they're meeting when you see someone on the golf course or at a Gulfton or you know exactly who they're talking to. Transparency is better than kind of everyone going behind the door, you know, as they say in large, having conversations about who knows what.
Yeah, look, I mean, Ireland is a small place and people like the world of media, the words of the judiciary and the words of politics, often intertwined and often often mixed. And, you know, like someone made the point, you know, like regular politicians attend Law Society and kings in dinners and events run by the judiciary. Is that all need to stop or is that not an acceptable way, acceptable part of business being done and the separation of powers?
You know, I think this episode has raised a very important question about the separation of powers. You know, there has been legitimate calls and Brendan has put it very well in an article in the Irish Times on Monday that it was it's for the judiciary to kind of get its house in order to deal with these sort of episodes when they arise in terms of failures and personal standards, essentially for a member of the judiciary. And that's why I think you'd had that the chief justice move to to get Susan Denham to have this probe into Seamus, the kind of behaviour and his actions around this event and whether or not that is exactly what he did.
He played a round of golf and he had a dinner. They can find out probably who he talked to. It's Visio, I suppose.
Anyway, that's there's another point maybe about, you know, are the judges is the price for being a judge that you have no social life, you've become a hermit? I don't know.
Anyway, look, Danny, I want to talk to Mark McSherry, so thank you very much for joining us. And that's Daniel McConnell, who's political editor of The Irish Examiner. Mark McSherry, good morning.
Good morning. Now, what did you think and what do you think about Phil Hogan? Should he stay or should he go?
Well, first of all, can I say that as far as I'm concerned, the golf event was a disastrous error of judgment from everybody associated, from participants to organisers and so on. In terms of Commissioner Hogan, the whole thing has become a total distraction. I think he with all of the others associated with the. Disastrous errors of judgment, but I think in the competence of the here and now, it's not in the competence of the theCIA tarnished government.
Me, you are Irelands a nation to decide on Mr. Horgan's fate. That's exclusively a matter for the commission. And on a personal level, what I would like to see is bring this calamitous period to an end and focus on developing a very concise strategy for dealing for the next phase of Colvert with flawless communications and cohesion in government, which we haven't had for the last number of months.
Do you think it was a mistake by the teacher, can Tannishtha, to ask him to consider his position? Because everything that has followed really flows from that, you know, domestic politicians messing in the business of the commission?
No, I can understand that the teacher cannot monitor reflecting the anger of the nation, which the anger of the nation, I think has built with the frustration of the core that period the inconsistency with restrictions, the difficulties with communications. And I think the teacher continues to, you know, reflected that anger and in asking him to consider his position. But we have no competence in it now, so we need to move on. We have pressing domestic concerns, particularly with the schools returning next week.
And there are also major problems in the context of the operation of business, particularly on the hospitality side. And we need to develop a strategy. At the moment. The numbers go up. There's new restrictions announced the next day, and that is not a strategy. I mean, there is confusion nationally and that has been reflected by the texture's as I've listened in there. And I think what we need is leadership, cohesion in government and a clear focus on a strategy that's going to work for a functioning society, keeping them safe by balancing the correct restrictions.
And there must be consistency in those. And we haven't heard them.
From your own point of view, I mean, would you like to see Phil Hogan stay in the role of trade commissioner? Do you think it's important that an Irish voice be there or would be just as confident if Arsala Pantelion appointed somebody from a different jurisdiction?
Because it's unlikely that our replacement commissioner would get the same gig. It's complicated. You have to read a brief and time is not on our side.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, obviously, as I said at the outset, it's exclusively a matter for the commission in terms of Mr. Hogan's fate. I think he did a good job as agriculture commissioner. It was unique for Ireland to be afforded the opportunity to hold the trade commissioner slot. It would be sad if we lost that level of influence. But I am conscious that the commission, they negotiate within parameters set collectively by the leaders of all of the members of the EU.
And so an individual commissioner account exclusively where the Irish or French or German Jerzy. That said, I would sooner an Irish person was in that position. Considering the challenges that Brexit have underlined that Boris Johnson has taken from the UK perspective does not augur well for us. But as I said, I have no competence, nor does it. He shook Northern Ireland as a nation in terms of whether Mr Hawke and continues. And frankly, I'm I'm frustrated at the distraction it's become to the extent that, you know, we need to find cohesion and focus on our own strategy here, which has not been good in recent months due to the calamitous own goals that have haunted ourselves over the last period of months.
Mark McSherry, funeral faulted for single item. Thank you very much for joining us. And.
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