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European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan (Reuters)
European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan (Reuters)

EU trade commissioner rides out calls to quit over Covid-19 rule breach

Phil Hogan says he has 'listened carefully' to calls to quit; golf dinner has caused public outrage in Ireland

Dublin/Brussels: European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan apologised again on Sunday for attending an event in his native Ireland that may have breached COVID-19 regulations, but an EU official said he would not heed calls from Irish leaders to resign.

"The commissioner is not resigning," said the official, who is close to the European Union executive's trade policy chief.

The Irish representative on the European Commission was asked on Saturday by Ireland's prime minister and deputy prime minister to consider his position after his attendance at a golf dinner caused public outrage and led to other political resignations.

Hogan, who offered an initial apology on Friday only after Prime Minister Micheal Martin demanded one, said on Sunday he had listened carefully to Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's views.

"I acknowledge my actions have touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, something for which I am profoundly sorry," Hogan said in a statement, adding that his attendance had caused "unnecessary stress, risk and offence".

"I want, in particular, to apologise to... all people who have lost loved ones during this pandemic."

Hogan said he had been reporting to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the event in recent days.

An Irish cabinet minister quit and other lawmakers were disciplined on Friday for being among over 80 guests at a hotel dinner in the west of Ireland hosted by parliament's golf society, the night after COVID-19 restrictions were significantly tightened.

The golf dinner has infuriated Irish people who have been unable to attend funerals or had to cancel holidays or weddings because of the rules. Varadkar, leader of the Fine Gael party, said it had seriously damaged the national effort at a time when infections are rising.

Varadkar welcomed Sunday's more detailed apology from Hogan, a former Fine Gael minister, but said a further explanation was required in respect of both his attendance at the dinner and his movements around Ireland.

"If he can't do that, then he needs to consider his position," Varadkar told RTE Radio. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by John Chalmers in Brussels; Editing by Alex Richardson)

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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