Irish PM, Deputy PM call on EU trade chief Hogan to quit

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s prime minister and deputy minister asked European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, Ireland’s representative on the EU’s executive, to consider his position over his attendance at an event being investigated for breaching COVID-19 regulations.

FILE PHOTO: European Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan of Ireland attends his hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

An Irish minister resigned and a number of other lawmakers were disciplined on Friday after they were among more than 80 guests at a hotel dinner hosted by parliament’s golf society, the night after COVID-19 restrictions were significantly tightened.

Hogan also attended the event in the west of Ireland that has caused public outrage and is under police investigation for alleged breaches of public health regulations. He apologised on Friday and said he attended on the clear understanding that it would comply with guidelines.

“The Taoiseach (prime minister) and the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) did speak with Commissioner Hogan today and asked him to consider his position,” a government spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

“They both believe that the event should never have been held, that the Commissioner’s apology came late and that he still needs to give a full account and explanations of his actions.”

Irish national broadcaster RTE quoted a spokesperson for Hogan as saying there would be no response this evening to the call that he consider his position.

“We will reflect on that,” the spokesperson added.

Hogan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hogan, a former minister from Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party, was appointed to the Commission’s agriculture brief in 2014 and given the influential position of trade chief upon his reappointment last year.

Hogan has led trade talks with the United States and has a key role in negotiations over Britain’s post-Brexit trading relationship with the bloc.

He considered a bid to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization in June before deciding against running.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Daniel Wallis