The lesson Phil Hogan has not learned

Phil Hogan’s resignation statement and RTE interview show that he has not learned the most important lesson of Golfgate.

The former European Commissioner repeatedly said that he broke no laws or regulations, when it is perfectly clear that he did both.

Using a mobile phone while driving breaks the law, and the Health Service has confirmed that he broke the Covid regulations.

Instead of accepting responsibility for his behaviour, he blamed his resignation on the distraction that the issue was causing to the work of the European Commission.

We must all now learn the lesson that Phil Hogan has not.

We all have to move beyond this type of politics, and insist on democratic accountability for the behaviour of public servants in Ireland and in the European Union.

We must insist that public servants do not seek loopholes in laws and regulations that are there to protect the community, but that they actively promote those laws and regulations.

All of the eighty powerful people who travelled from all around the country to bring a pandemic risk into one local community, then back to each of their own communities, have undermined the social solidarity needed to combat Covid.

But compared to others who attended the event, Phil Hogan’s consistent flouting of the Covid regulations and the law was off the scale.

  • He arrived in Ireland and was seen in public areas of the K Club complex even before his Covid test.
  • He then used his negative test result to justify applying to himself the rules for Irish residents, instead of the full 14-day quarantine for travellers from high-risk countries.
  • He went to play golf in Limerick before his 14-day quarantine period ended, presumably not his only unnecessary journey during that time.
  • He went out of his way to travel from Kilkenny to locked-down Kildare which is not on the route to Galway.
  • He did this to pick up what he first said were essential trade deal documents, then later said were handwritten notes to himself.
  • While in Kildare he broke the traffic laws by using a mobile phone when driving.
  • He attended the now-infamous golf dinner in Galway when, at the most generous interpretation, it was obvious once he arrived that it was against the Covid regulations.
  • He then went through a week of having the above information dragged out of him only after it already became public.

The Commissioner’s earlier RTE interview, on the day before he resigned, was reminiscent of Haughey-era Fianna Fáil bluster.

  • When asked about why he attended the golf event, he said that he had asked the organisers if the event was compliant with the Covid requirements, and had taken their word for it without seeking further information.
  • Yet when asked about the quarantine requirement, he said that he had not taken his medical team’s word for it, but had checked the regulations online like any person would do.
  • When he was told that the Health Service had confirmed that he was mistaken about the quarantine requirements, he simply said that he did not accept that.
  • When asked if he had told the Taoiseach and Tanaiste that he was stopped and cautioned by the police for using his mobile phone while driving, he said that they were interested in the golf dinner at that stage.
  • When asked whether it was appropriate to leave essential trade deal documents in an apartment in Kildare, he said that they were not documents but handwritten notes to himself.
  • When asked how he was negotiating this deal while playing golf for two days and attending the dinner, he said he could organise his golf to ensure that he has time in the evening to converse with the US ambassador. This is a bizarre way to prepare for trade negotiations.

Now he says that he has resigned because of the distraction that the issue is causing, and repeatedly says in the face of reality that he broke no laws or regulations.

On the positive side, the Taoiseach and Tanaiste made clear that his behaviour was unacceptable, the President of the European Commission investigated the matter appropriately, and ultimately the Commissioner had to resign despite persistent efforts to brazen out his behaviour.

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3 Comments

  1. If Hogans replacement comes from Latvia, Portugal, Belgium, Hungry even, that person will most probably do as good as or even a better job for EU and Ireland. As the list of the 80 + attendees at this old boys Dáil plus others shindig come dribbling out, the stink gets worse. The arrogance of each and every one of these people.

  2. A cross-party social society doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but it appears very weird that:
    1. lobbyists, journalists and judges attend
    2. not all members of the Oireachtas are invited to join
    What would a golden circle look like, if not like this?

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