EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has stepped down from his role over the Golfgate scandal.
Reports emerged over the weekend that Hogan had travelled across Ireland without respecting COVID-19 restrictions.
The move sparked public outrage and the Irish government lost confidence in him.
Appointed in 2014 as agriculture commissioner, Hogan rose through the ranks to win the coveted trade post under Ursula von der Leyen’s EU Commission in December 2019.
His departure creates another problem for Von der Leyen, who will need to find a replacement, amid difficult trade talks with America, China and the UK.
Von der Leyen paid tribute to Hogan’s work as Trade Commissioner, calling him a “valuable and respected member of the College”
In a statement, Hogan said he resigned after it became “increasingly clear” the incident was becoming a “distraction” from his work as a commissioner.
He continued: “I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset. I have always tried to comply with all relevant COVID-19 Regulations in Ireland and had understood that I had met with all relevant public health Guidelines, particularly following confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test. I reiterate my heartfelt apology to the Irish people for the mistakes I made during my visit.”
A scandal erupted last week over reports that more than 80 people attended a golf society dinner in Galway, Ireland, on August 19.
Ireland’s prime minister Micheal Martin has been forced to defend the future of his government after it emerged a number of senior members of his party, Fianna Fáil, were there.
The event took place one day after the government re-introduced social distancing rules that forbid large social events and say no more than eight people should sit together in restaurants.
The Irish agricultural minister and the deputy speaker of the upper house have both already resigned over the scandal.
In response to Hogan’s resignation, the Irish government said it was the “correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week”, adding it will consider a replacement in due course.