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Phil Hogan resigns but still insists 'I broke no rules or regulations'

Hogan steps down from €350k EU role

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Phil Hogan has resigned as EU Trade Commissioner

Phil Hogan has resigned as EU Trade Commissioner

Phil Hogan has resigned as EU Trade Commissioner

Former EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan became the most high-profile political resignation in the fallout from the Golfgate controversy when he fell on his sword last night after days of mounting pressure.

Mr Hogan, who earned nearly €350,000-a-year, tendered his resignation to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, saying he deeply regrets the concern, unease and upset caused by his "mistakes in Ireland".

The Government said Mr Hogan had taken the "correct course of action" in resigning.

His departure prompts major questions on whether Ireland will retain the hugely important trade portfolio amid ongoing fears of a no-trade deal Brexit as well as who the coalition will select to replace him.

Despite expectations in Fine Gael that Mr Hogan's successor will be one of its members, a senior Fianna Fáil source insisted there has been "no discussion or acceptance on any nominee".

Distraction

Mr Hogan said it had become clear to him that the storm over his attendance at last week's Oireachtas Golf Society dinner was a "distraction" from his work.

He said he came to the conclusion this would "continue and continue, and therefore I should resign".

Mr Hogan continued to insist he broke no laws, while admitting "I should have been more rigorous in my adherence to the Covid guidelines".

A senior government source said there was no contact from the commissioner, nor from Ms von der Leyen, before details of the resignation emerged last night.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is understood to have learned of the Commissioner's plan to resign on social media.

The three coalition party leaders have not discussed poss-ible replacements.

Ms von der Leyen said of Mr Hogan: "He was a valuable and respected member of the college. I wish him all the best for the future."

A statement from Government Buildings said: "The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minis- ter Ryan acknowledge the resignation of Mr Phil Hogan, and while this must have been a difficult decision for him personally, we believe that it is the correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week.

"We all have a responsibility to support and adhere to public health guidelines and regulations.

"We all must persevere in our efforts against Covid-19. Former Commissioner Hogan has served Europe and Ireland with distinction. The Government will consider his replacement in due course."

Mr Hogan's resignation came after days of mounting pressure in Dublin and Brussels.

At the weekend, Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar called on him to "consider his position", and that escalated when the government leaders, including the Green Party's Eamon Ryan, accused him on Tuesday of clear breaches of public health guidelines.

Before Mr Hogan's departure, Mr Martin said yesterday he had "undermined the whole approach to public health in Ireland" with his movements around the country in recent weeks.

Transport Minister Mr Ryan said the Government had lost confidence in Mr Hogan.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the Government to phone Ms von der Leyen to today "make the Government position clear" on Mr Hogan.

In Brussels, Ms von der Leyen had demanded that Mr Hogan account for his movements in Ireland and sought details of coronavirus restrictions here.

She also asked for additional information from Mr Hogan on Monday, and yesterday her spokesperson signalled she would be taking other sources of information into acc- ount as well.

Government sources insisted last night that discussions have not been taking place in recent days about Mr Hogan's successor or from which party that person would come.

There is speculation that Fine Gael will retain the role, and it is unlikely party leader Mr Varadkar will be Brussels-bound.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is seen as a front-runner, given his role in spearheading Ireland's response to Brexit.

Others in Fine Gael who could be considered include Justice Minister Helen McEntee - a former European Affairs Minister - and former Communications Minister Richard Bruton.