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Golfgate: EU Commissioner Phil Hogan apologises for attending event that broke COVID-19 rules

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EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has faced calls to resign after he attended a golf event that breached COVID-19 rules in Ireland.
EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has faced calls to resign after he attended a golf event that breached COVID-19 rules in Ireland.   -   Copyright  Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press.
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The embattled EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan says he is "profoundly sorry" for attending a golfing event that breached official coronavirus rules in Ireland but stopped short of answering calls to resign.

Several prominent Irish political figures, including a government minister, senators and a Supreme Court judge attended the event in County Galway on Wednesday.

The event was held just a day after Ireland announced fresh COVID-19 restrictions, including no "formal or informal events or parties" to be held at hotel restaurants.

It was reported more than 80 attendees were at the dinner and sat at tables of 10, which breached the rules. A room divider was put up by organisers to avoid the ban on more than 50 people meetings

"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 seen by Euronews on Sunday.

"I want, in particular, to apologise to the wonderful healthcare workers, who continue to put their lives on the line to combat COVID-19 and all people who have lost loved ones during this pandemic."

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin and his deputy Leo Varadkar had asked Hogan to "reconsider his position" for attending the event.

But 60-year-old Hogan did not mention any plans to step down in the statement.

"I spoke to both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste yesterday and I have listened carefully to their views, which I respect," he said.

"I have been reporting to the President of the European Commission on all these matters in recent days."

The Minister of Agriculture, Dara Calleary resigned his post on Friday after it emerged he had attended the event hosted by the Oireachtas Golf Society, a parliamentary group which organises regular golf outings.

The dinner was also attended by Senator Jerry Buttimer, the deputy chairperson of the Seanad, the Irish Senate, who also resigned on Friday.

Police said they opened an investigation into the event.

Meanwhile, Irish premier Micheal Martin said on Sunday he would recall parliament following the scandal.