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Phil Hogan to make timeline of movements around Ireland public

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Ireland’s European Commissioner Phil Hogan is to make public a timeline of his movements during a recent trip to Ireland as he fends off calls for his resignation over his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner.

The Irish Examiner reported on Tuesday that Mr Hogan had stayed in a Co Limerick hotel before playing golf in Adare on August 13th, which would have been during his period of self-isolation after returning from the continent.

Mr Hogan’s spokesman said this would be included in the timeline being provided by the trade commissioner.

EU sources confirmed commission president Ursula von der Leyen was reviewing an updated report submitted by the former Fine Gael minister after she asked for clarifications on an initial dossier provided on Sunday.

“The commissioner has, as requested, submitted a detailed report to the president, which she is considering,” a spokesman for Mr Hogan said. “He will, as also requested, publish a timeline of his movements while in Ireland.”

The Government and the European Commission have suggested that Mr Hogan should take questions in public to account for his actions, but he has yet to do so.

The dossier submitted by Mr Hogan is reportedly 20 pages long and includes details on the local coronavirus restrictions in different counties, advice from the Irish Hotels Federation, and a map of Ireland.

Mr Hogan has been under pressure since he attended a meal at a hotel in Clifden, Co Galway last week, at which more than 80 people gathered in apparent breach of public health guidelines.

The Government is awaiting the judgment of Dr von der Leyen on the dossier supplied by Mr Hogan to her office. Sources said there is particular focus on whether Mr Hogan violated the terms of the local lockdown in Kildare.

Proven incorrect

Initial statements provided by his spokesman claiming Mr Hogan travelled “directly” from Co Kilkenny to the event in Co Galway have since proven to be incorrect. Mr Hogan’s team has said that he returned to Co Kildare, where local lockdown measures are in place, on his way to the golf event to collect items from his residence at the K-Club. He was stopped by gardaí in the county for using his mobile phone while driving.

Dr von der Leyen then requested further details and clarification from the commissioner because “she wishes to be informed in detail about the facts, but she also wishes to understand the circumstances, she wishes simply to have the complete picture.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan discussed the controvery surrounding Mr Hogan and the golfing society dinner on Tuesday morning.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has called for Mr Hogan to resign, while Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar asked him to consider his position.

European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said it was “premature” to discuss any potential sanctions on the commissioner and whether Dr von der Leyen could ask him to resign.

‘Zero comment’

The owner of the hotel that hosted the controversial dinner, to mark the golfing society’s 50th anniversary, has said he will be making “zero comment” on the debacle.

Galway businessman John Sweeney, who owns the Station House Hotel, said he was “saying absolutely nothing” in response to the political storm that has erupted over the event.

“At the appropriate time the hotel will have something to say,” he told The Irish Times.

Mr Sweeney is a well-known Galway businessman and hotelier, and he was part of a consortium that previously acquired Dublin’s five-star Shelbourne Hotel in 2004. However, his business interests were severely hit during the economic crash.

His name was listed on the seating plan for the dinner, and other guests included Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary, who resigned as minister for agriculture over the controversy; Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe; and a host of former and sitting Oireachtas members – predominantly from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The Supreme Court has asked former chief justice Susan Denham to review whether Mr Justice Woulfe should have attended the dinner.

The three-course dinner rounded off two days of golf at Connemara Golf Club in Ballyconneely. There had been a divider in place splitting the function room, and the divider was pulled back during a series of speeches at the event.

Previous limits allowing up to 50 people to attend indoor gatherings had been reduced to just six people as part of measures announced by the Government in response to a rise in Covid-19 cases the day before the dinner.

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