Hogan sorry for ‘inappropriate’ comments

Environment Minister Phil Hogan has apologised for remarks he made to a former Fine Gael secretary at a golf outing.

Mr Hogan wrote to Anne O’Connell saying he “unreservedly” apologised for the remarks, which he acknowledged as being “totally inappropriate”.

The incident happened at an Oireachtas golf society outing in Connemara on Aug 24.

Ms O’Connell told the Sunday Independent that she and her partner of 26 years, Mairtin MacCormaic, had encountered the minister when entering the clubhouse.

After exchanging greetings, Ms O’Connell, who is understood to own a number of buy-to-let properties, expressed the hope that the minister would not “screw” property owners in legislation that was imminent.

“He replied in a loud voice: ‘I have no problem screwing you. Hasn’t Mairtin been screwing you for years?’ Then he turned his back on me and said: ‘Business tomorrow,’ ” Ms O’Connell, 70, said of the incident.

She said she was “completely traumatised” by Mr Hogan’s remarks, which she described as “demeaning, insulting and degrading”.

On Aug 28, she wrote a complaint to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and copied Mr Hogan on the letter.

“It is only with the help and support of my family and friends that I am coping with this,” Ms O’Connell wrote.

“Nobody deserves this kind of outrageous dismissal. Not least from a member of the Government. I have no intention of letting this matter die.”

Ms O’Connell pointed out she had been “a loyal member of Fine Gael all my adult life”, having worked as a secretary to several members of the Oireachtas and as administrator to John Bruton during his leadership of the party.

On Aug 29, Ms O’Connell received a handwritten letter of apology from Mr Hogan.

“I unreservedly apologise for those remarks which were totally inappropriate in a personal sense to you and Mairtin,” he wrote.

“It was intended in a jocose and private basis and certainly not intended as insulting, particularly as I know both of you very well for 24 years. My apologies for any personal injury caused.”

Ms O’Connell was yesterday quoted as saying Mr Hogan’s letter was a “scribbled note” which she did not regard as a proper apology.

A spokesperson for the minister said: “He rang the lady after he received the note.

“He subsequently wrote to her. He apologised. He did not mean to cause any offence.”


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