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Phil Hogan, the country’s European commissioner for trade, is facing mounting pressure to resign amid public uproar over his attendance at the gathering in a plush hotel on Ireland’s west coast. Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary this morning announced he was quitting government after he too attended the Irish parliament’s golf society event on Wednesday evening.
A spokesman for Mr Hogan said on Thursday evening the commissioner had abided by the strict COVID-19 rules.
He said: “I can confirm that the Commissioner complied fully with all quarantine/restricted movement requirements on his return to Ireland.”
However, the event itself was not in line with the latest raft of measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
On Tuesday Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced new rules after a surge in infections.
Up to 80 people were at the dinner on Wednesday, which took place less than 24 hours after Mr Calleary and his Cabinet colleagues agreed to implement new rules.
The rules strictly ban any indoor gathering of more than six people.
On Thursday Mr Calleary apologised “unreservedly” for his attendance
Mr Calleary said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly to everyone.
“We are asking quite a lot from everyone at this difficult time.
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“I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues.”
Many Irish people took to Twitter to lash out at his statement.
They pointed out that they were forced to miss out on weddings and funerals due to the rules, which Mr Calleary had brazenly flouted.
One person said: “It’s just not credible that Phil Hogan came back to Ireland for a golf function, obeyed quarantine restrictions (according to his spokesperson) and then attended a function which broke government restrictions.”
Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan said: “We really need to hear from Phil Hogan. Was he in Brussels prior to this event?
“If so, did he self-isolate for 14 days prior to attending? Has he anything to say re breaching Government guidelines?”
Visitors from most EU countries, including Belgium, are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Ireland under some of the strictest travel restrictions in the bloc.
The dinner was held at the upmarket County Galway Station House Hotel.
The Irish Examiner newspaper quoted a spokesman for the hotel as saying it was told by the hotel sector’s representative body that until guidance on the new restrictions was available, the dinner would adhere to guidelines if fewer than 50 people dined in adjoining rooms.
The two sets of diners were divided by a removable partition, the spokesman said.
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