EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has published a full timeline of his movements in Ireland in and around the controversial Oireachtas golf event in Clifden last Wednesday.
Mr Hogan told EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that to his best understanding, his justification for entering County Kildare on three occasions to obtain essential working documents or to get my belongings for the purpose of returning home to Brussels constitutes “a reasonable excuse” under the regulations.
“At all times during my brief presence in Kildare over the period, I followed public health guidance,” he told his EU boss.
In his lengthy dossier, he said that at the outset he fully accepts that it is “abundantly clear” that the event should not have been held.
“I should not have attended this dinner. I accept this and have made a full apology to the Irish people for having done so,” Mr Hogan said.
The Commissioner said he was an invited guest to the event on 19 August 2020 and was assured by the organisers and the Hotel that it was being held in full compliance with all relevant Covid-19 rules.
He went on to say that he completed a Passenger Locator form on arrival in the State on July 31.
“I subsequently was admitted to hospital for a medical intervention on 5 August where I tested negatively for Covid-19. As I had received a negative Covid-19 test while in hospital, I was not under any subsequent legal requirement to self-isolate or quarantine,” he said.
“I went to Dublin on essential official business on 12 August 2020 to brief the Tánaiste, and the Minister for Trade on EU-U.S. trade talks and to attend an event in the European Commission Office. As I had submitted my contact details on the Passenger Locator Form I remained fully accessible to the authorities at all times as required by the Regulations, notwithstanding that my negative COVID-19 status had been determined since arrival to the State,” he added.
- 31 July – I arrived in Ireland, completed the statutory Passenger Locator Form and travelled to my temporary residence in Co. Kildare.
- 5 August - I was admitted to a Dublin hospital for a medical procedure.
- While in hospital, I tested negative for Covid-19 (www.citizensinformation.ie confirms that a negative test result ends the self-restriction period).
- 6 August - I was discharged from hospital and returned briefly to my temporary residence in County Kildare.
- 7 August – I travelled to Kilkenny before the local lockdown rules came into effect at midnight in Co. Kildare (and neighbouring counties Laois and Offaly).
- 12 August - I travelled to Dublin from Kilkenny for essential work reasons, which required my attendance at the European Commission office. While in Dublin, I also had separate meetings with the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and with Minister Robert Troy, to brief them on events relating to ongoing negotiations with the U.S.
- 13 August – I played golf in Adare, Co. Limerick and returned to Kilkenny.
- 17 August – I travelled from Co. Kilkenny to Co. Galway via Co. Kildare. I stopped briefly in Co. Kildare at the property in which I had been staying for the purpose of collecting some personal belongings and essential papers relating to the ongoing negotiations with the USTR, Robert Lighthizer, which continued while I was in Co. Galway. This culminated in an agreement on a package of tariff reductions on 21 August.
- 18 August – I played golf in Co. Galway, staying in Clifden. (no formal dinner or reception).
- 19 August – I played golf in Clifden, and subsequently attended a formal dinner for which I have since apologised.
- 21 August – I returned from Galway to my temporary residence in Co. Kildare to collect my remaining personal belongings, including my passport, and stayed there overnight to catch an early morning flight to my primary residence in Brussels from the nearby airport.
- 22 August – I returned to Brussels.
On 7 August 2020, the Irish Government introduced a localised lockdown covering 3 counties, including Kildare, where he was initially staying before admittance to hospital.
This lockdown was enforced by SI 295 of 2020 which specifies movement restrictions within the counties involved. People living within the county are not allowed to leave the county and those living outside the county are not permitted to enter the relevant counties.
Mr Hogan pointed to “some exceptions” whereby people can travel in and out of those counties.
“In my case, I was in hospital in the run up to the lockdown being introduced and then travelled back to Kildare before going to recuperate in my home county (Kilkenny), which was not under lockdown.
“I had left Kildare before the lockdown was introduced at midnight on 7 August,” Mr Hogan said.
He said his subsequent trips concerning Kildare were as follows:
- “I subsequently passed through Kildare without stopping en route to Dublin on 12 August where I had separate meetings with An Tánaiste, Mr Varadkar and the Minister of State for Trade, Mr. Robert Troy about on-going EU-U.S. trade talks. I also had a short meeting at the offices of the European Commission. I returned to Kilkenny that evening, travelling through Kildare en route without stopping,” he said.
- “On 17 August 2020, en route to Galway from Kilkenny, I briefly stopped off at my apartment in Kildare to collect essential work papers concerning the EU-U.S. trade talks. I believe that this constitutes a reasonable excuse for entering the county under the Covid regulations. It was during this journey I was stopped by a member of the Irish police who had seen me holding a phone while I was driving. The policeman cautioned me against holding a phone and there were no charges or further actions under the road traffic legislation.
I very much regret having answered the phone while driving,” he added.
- “Late on 21 August, I returned from Galway to my apartment in Kildare to collect my belongings including my passport for the purpose of traveling back to my primary residence in Brussels very early the next morning,” he said.
“When in Kildare, I was either moving through the County or momentarily there with a reasonable excuse and consequently I was not in breach of the Covid-19 restrictions imposed. To the best of my knowledge and ability I believe that I complied with public health regulations in Ireland during my visit,” Mr Hogan said.
EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has published a full timeline of his travels in Ireland that makes no mention of his visit to Limerick on August 12 as revealed by the Irish Examiner today.
Mr Hogan published the timeline as part of his report to the EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen.
Ms Von der Leyen had requested a more detailed report after his first submission.
It is not immediately clear from Mr Hogan's published timeline where he spent the night of August 12.
Multiple sources confirmed to the Irish Examiner that Phil Hogan stayed in a Limerick hotel and ate at a restaurant in Adare on August 12, one day before his 14-day isolation period was due to expire.
Mr Hogan’s spokesman has confirmed the commissioner played golf on August 13, but did not address specific queries from the Irish Examiner about his presence in Adare the night before.
He was seen dining at the Limerick restaurant in the town on August 12, the same day that he had met with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in Dublin, a meeting a spokesperson had said was "essential".
On further questioning, the spokesperson said that Mr Hogan had travelled to Adare from Kilkenny but "he did not know on which date".
Mr Hogan's 14-day isolation period ended on August 13, having arrived back in Ireland on July 31.
In his statement Mr Hogan said that after being admitted to hospital for a medical intervention on August 5 he tested negatively for Covid-19.
"As I had received a negative Covid-19 test while in hospital, I was not under any subsequent legal requirement to self-isolate or quarantine."