It has been a whirlwind week for EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan as more and more revelations continue to come to light about his movements before he attended the now infamous Oireachtas Golf Society dinner on August 19th.
The Minister of Agriculture Dara Calleary has since resigned from his position and also as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, while Leas-cathaoirleach Jeremy Buttimer resigned on Saturday evening after criticism for attending the dinner.
Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe and Phil Hogan are now facing calls to resign for attending the event, which is the subject of a Garda investigation into whether it breached Covid-19 guidelines.
However, it had been a busy few weeks for Mr Hogan before he even came to Ireland from Brussels.
It was revealed by the Sunday World that before attending the golf event in Clifden, Phil Hogan played at a golf tournament in the Netherlands in the first week of July. The tournament was organised by the Irish Wild Geese golf society who are based in Brussels.
At the time there were no travel restrictions between the neighbouring countries of Belgium and the Netherlands. He also was not required to self isolate for two weeks on his return as is required in Ireland.
According to the Irish government though both countries are deemed unsafe to travel to and are not included on the current so-called "green list".
Mr Hogan arrived in Ireland from Brussels on July 30th and stayed at a property that he owns at the K Club in Kildare.
He said that he was fully compliant with the Government's guidelines around self-isolating when he arrived in Ireland at the end of July.
As is required of anyone entering Ireland from a non-green list country, he was advised to avoid contact with other people and social situations as much as possible, according to the HSE's guidelines.
Mr Hogan then travelled to Dublin for a medical appointment where he also was tested for Covid-19. According to a spokesperson the test came back negative, but he remained in the health facility for the night.
The next day he travelled to Kilkenny to stay with a family member "for a period of convalescence."
On August 8th the Government announced a new partial lockdown in Kildare, Offaly and Laois.
According to the new restrictions those in Kildare "can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons: to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home; to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products; for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits; or for farming purposes, food production or care of animals.
"You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and unless travel through these counties is for the purpose of reaching a destination outside of these specified counties. In this regard, people should not stop in the specified counties, unless for essential purposes."
The following Wednesday Mr Hogan travelled from Kilkenny to Dublin and met with the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar one day before his two weeks of self isolation was due to be up.
According to a spokesperson for Phil Hogan he went to Dublin "for essential work reasons relating to his role with the commission."
The spokesperson also said it was part of his duty as Trade Commisioner to go to the commission's office in Dublin to meet Mr Varadkar.
Mr Hogan then stayed in the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Limerick and dined at a restaurant in Adare that evening, still one day before his 14-day isolation period was due to expire after arriving into Ireland from Belgium.
Mr Hogan has shared details of his visit to Ireland with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, but does not mention a stay at the hotel on August 12th in the relevant document.
Mr Hogan played a round of golf at Adare Manor.
His spokesman has confirmed the commissioner played golf this day, but did not address specific queries from the Irish Examiner about his presence in Adare the night before.
Mr Hogan's 14-day isolation period ended on August 13th, having arrived back in Ireland on July 31st.
According to Hogan's spokesperson: "He was next in Kildare on August 17th, when he stopped off briefly en route to Galway."
During his drive to Galway, Mr Hogan was stopped by gardaí for using his mobile phone on his way to the event. According to the Irish Independent, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste found out about the incident on foot of communications from the Garda Commissioner. The details of this incident only came in to the public domain on Sunday evening, August 23rd.
It also only emerged on Tuesday, August 25th that Mr Hogan visited Roscommon on this day in which he travelled from Co Kilkenny to Co Galway via Co Kildare. The Irish Times reported that Mr Hogan made a social visit in the county on August 17th that was not disclosed in the itinerary of his movements published by the European Commission. A spokesman for the Commissioner told the paper: “If he was in Roscommon, I fail to see its relevance.”
The Oireachtas Golf Society's 50th anniversary tournament kicked off at the Connemara Championship Golf Links in Galway.
That same day there was a Cabinet meeting to discuss possible further restrictions regarding Covid-19. At 6pm that night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced a range of new measures which included a limit on indoor gatherings to just six people.
The previous restrictions allowed for up to 50 people indoors but due to the increase in daily cases, the Government tightened restrictions.
The following day, 81 people attended a dinner at the Station house in Clifden at 8:30pm.
As well as Mr Hogan, the then minister for agriculture Dara Calleary, Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe, Senator Jeremy Buttimer, recently retired broadcaster Sean O'Rourke and a host of former and sitting Oireachtas members attended the dinner.
According to the hotel and several of those in attendance, there was a large physical divider in place at the event which split the room into one area with 45 guesta and another with 36.
The following day at 7pm the Irish Examiner broke the story of the dinner with the headline of “Minister and 80 people at golf event in breach of public health guidelines.”
There was widespread condemnation from the public and politicians alike and Dara Calleary resigned as Minister for Agriculture shortly after 8am, while Senator Jerry Buttimer resigned as leas-chathaoirleach of the Seanad. The party whip was also removed from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Senators who attended.
That morning Mr Hogan released his first statement addressing his attendance at the golf society dinner.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, the Taoiseach said Mr Hogan should apologise for attending the dinner. “I would like a meaningful response to the mood of the public and the anger of the public towards this issue,” he said.
Following this, Mr Hogan released a statement clarifying he “does apologise for any distress caused by his attendance” at the dinner.
Shortly afterwards his spokesman sent out a revised statement which said that Mr Hogan apologised for his attendance, with the reference to “any distress caused” removed.
While Mr Hogan returned to Brussels the next day, both Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar asked him to “consider his position” as EU commissioner in light of the news.
The next day Mr Hogan released another statement saying: "I wish to apologise fully and unreservedly for attending the Oireachtas golf society dinner on Wednesday night last.
"I want, in particular, to apologise to the wonderful healthcare workers, who continue to put their lives on the line to combat Covid 19 and all people who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.
"I acknowledge my actions have touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, something for which I am profoundly sorry."
Later, it was revealed that Mr Hogan was stopped by gardaí for driving while on his mobile phone in Co Kildare.
The garda who stopped him used his discretion, allowing Mr Hogan to proceed with a warning, however the garda did enter the incident into the garda PULSE system.
On Monday EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, asked Mr Hogan to provide more detail on his attendance at a controversial Oireachtas Golf Society dinner, and his possible violation of Covid-19 restrictions
Mr Hogan duly presented her with a dossier on his involvement in the golf event.
European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant told reporters: “This is a matter which requires careful assessment on our side.
“It is a matter where details count, therefore the president has requested Commissioner Hogan to provide a full report covering the matters… the president has received such a report from Commissioner Hogan last night."
She said there were “moral aspects” involved in the need to follow coronavirus rules, as well as legal ones.
Mr Hogan issued President of the Euorpean Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, with a document detailing his stay in Ireland.
Subsequently, following the request of Ms von der Leyen, the document was published online on the European Commission website.
In the document, Mr Hogan included a visit to Limerick to play golf on August 13th, the day his 14-day isolation period ended.
However, Mr Hogan stated that he had previously tested negative for Covid-19 on August 5th while in hospital in Dublin, ending his requirement to quarantine.
The document does not mention any stay at a Limerick hotel on August 12th, before the Commissioner played golf.
It also does not mention any visit to Roscommon on August 17th, the day in which he also travelled from Co Kilkenny to Co Galway via Co Kildare.
Despite visiting Kildare, which he acknowledges was in lockdown, he said: "To my best understanding, my justification for entering County Kildare to obtain essential working documents or to get my belongings for the purpose of returning home to Brussels constitutes 'a reasonable excuse' under the regulations."
Mr Hogan's timeline is as follows:
- July 31 - I arrived in Ireland, completed the statutory Passenger Locator Form and travelled to my temporary residence in Co Kildare.
- August 5 - I was admitted to a Dublin hospital for a medical procedure.
- While in hospital, I tested negative for Covid-19 (www.citizensinformation.ie confirms that a negative test result ends the self-restriction period).
- August 6 - I was discharged from hospital and returned briefly to my temporary residence in County Kildare.
- August 7 - I travelled to Kilkenny before the local lockdown rules came into effect at midnight in Co Kildare (and neighbouring counties Laois and Offaly).
- August 12 - I travelled to Dublin from Kilkenny for essential work reasons, which required my attendance at the European Commission office. While in Dublin, I also had separate meetings with the Tánaiste and with Minister Robert Troy, to brief them on events relating to ongoing negotiations with the US.
- August 13 - I played golf in Adare, Co Limerick and returned to Kilkenny.
- August 17 - I travelled from Co Kilkenny to Co Galway via Co Kildare. I stopped briefly in Co Kildare at the property in which I had been staying for the purpose of collecting some personal belongings and essential papers relating to the ongoing negotiations with the USTR, Robert Lighthizer, which continued while I was in Co Galway. This culminated in an agreement on a package of tariff reductions on August 21.
- August 18 - I played golf in Co Galway, staying in Clifden (no formal dinner or reception).
- August 19 - I played golf in Clifden, and subsequently attended a formal dinner for which I have since apologised.
- August 21 - I returned from Galway to my temporary residence in Co Kildare to collect my remaining personal belongings, including my passport, and stayed there overnight to catch an early morning flight to my primary residence in Brussels from the nearby airport.
- August 22 - I returned to Brussels.
Later, Mr Hogan's timeline was called into question due to his statement that his negative Covid-19 result while in hospital ended his requirement to self-isolate.
On Twitter, the official HSE account confirmed that regardless of a negative test result, people are required to fulfil the full 14-day isolation period.
Hi Richard. You are still asked to restrict movements for 14 days because it can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it. Muiriosa
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) August 25, 2020
Later, in a joint statement the three coalition leaders said "concerns remain" regarding Mr Hogan's account of his trip to Ireland.
The statement read: “It is clear that breaches of public health guidelines were made by Commissioner Phil Hogan since he travelled to Ireland.
“The Government guidelines clearly required him to restrict his movements for 14 days. He should also have limited his movements to and from Kildare for essential travel only, and he should not have attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner."
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen is expected to make her decision regarding Mr Hogan's position as EU Trade Commissioner later today.
European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said the president was still examining the case following the submission of Mr Hogan’s report yesterday.