| 6.8°C Dublin

Under-fire Hogan drives himself into more trouble

  • EU Commissioner was using phone while driving
  • Belated admission over return to Kildare

Close

Phil Hogan. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Phil Hogan. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

Phil Hogan. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan was stopped by gardai for using his phone while driving through Co Kildare during the lockdown.

Mr Hogan was given a caution by the garda who stopped him last Monday - the same day he travelled to Galway for the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society tournament and dinner.

Details of the incident were given to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who in turn informed Justice Minister Helen McEntee. The minister then told the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

It is understood the Garda Commissioner passed on the information as it could be potentially relevant to the ongoing controversy around the golf tournament and dinner.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar learned of the incident through gardaí rather than from Mr Hogan.

Lockdown

The revelation about Mr Hogan being stopped by gardaí raises fresh questions about why he did not reveal sooner that he returned to the county while it was under lockdown.

Yesterday, Mr Hogan finally admitted he travelled to locked down Kildare from Kilkenny to pick up "personal belongings and work documents" before travelling to Galway for the golf outing. Last Friday, he claimed he travelled directly to Galway and insisted he had not returned to Kildare while it was under lockdown.

Under the lockdown rules, Mr Hogan was entitled to travel to Kildare for work purposes but should not have left to play golf in another county as this is not considered an essential activity.

Mr Hogan's story unravelled after Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar publicly said he should consider his position.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Varadkar said Mr Hogan should answer all questions about his movements around the country since he arrived back in Ireland on July 31.

This resulted in Mr Hogan admitting he returned to his home in the grounds of the K Club Hotel and Golf Club before driving to Galway on August 17.

On the same day, he was stopped by gardaí who saw him driving while using his telephone which is a road traffic office which comes with a €60 fine and two penalty points. However, the garda who stopped Mr Hogan decided to give him a caution which is also permitted at an officer's discretion.

The Garda Commissioner was alerted to the incident involving Mr Hogan and he decided to inform the Justice Minister, who passed on the information to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Justice Minister did not respond to requests for comment last night.

Mr Hogan's spokesperson confirmed he was stopped by gardaí for driving while on his phone on August 17.

A Garda spokesperson said they did not comment on "interactions with named individuals" or "correspondence with the Department of Justice".

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said he has accepted Mr Hogan's apology but said he needs to "account for himself and answer any questions that might arise".

Mr Varadkar said Mr Hogan told him he does not believe he has broken any laws in relation to his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society event.

He said Mr Hogan's apology was welcome but that he should "consider his position" if he cannot confirm that he was compliant with public health guidelines.

"Ultimately, once you're nominated to the European Commission, you're a European Commissioner, and you don't take directions from national governments, however we needed to express our view on this, and how angry we are about all of this," Mr Varadkar said.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged Fianna Fail sponsored a prize for the Oireachtas Society Golf Tournament. The party gave a piece of crystal worth around €80 to be given as a prize for those taking part in the tournament.

A party spokesperson said they presumed the event "would follow all Covid-19 regulations".