Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan was stopped by gardaí for using his mobile phone while driving in Kildare on 17 August, his spokesperson has confirmed to RTÉ News.

The spokesperson said the incident happened while Mr Hogan was en route from Kilkenny to Kildare to collect "personal belongings and essential documents" at his apartment there before driving on to Galway.

The documents related to EU-US trade negotiations which, the spokesperson said, "continued while the commissioner was in Galway".

Earlier today, the spokesperson for Phil Hogan said the commissioner travelled "briefly" to Kildare before going to Clifden to attend the Oireachtas Golf Society event.

Mr Hogan had been staying in Kilkenny, but visited his apartment in Kildare to collect "personal belongings and essential work documents". 

The spokesperson said: "The lockdown guidelines for Kildare provide for exceptional travel outside the county 'to travel to work and home again'."

Mr Hogan will not be resigning from his position, his spokesperson told RTÉ News.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is following the controversy over Mr Hogan "closely", according to a spokesperson.

"She requested Commissioner Hogan to provide a full report with details of the event. It is important that facts are established in detail to carefully assess the situation," the spokesperson said.

Earlier, Mr Hogan offered his "fulsome and profound apology" for attending the dinner for 81 people last Wednesday.

"I wish to apologise fully and unreservedly for attending the Oireachtas golf society dinner on Wednesday night last," he said in a statement.

"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.

"I acknowledge my actions have touched a nerve for the people of Ireland, something for which I am profoundly sorry," he said.

"I realise fully the unnecessary stress, risk and offence caused to the people of Ireland by my attendance at such an event, at such a difficult time for all, and I am extremely sorry for this.

"I acknowledge that the issue is far bigger than compliance with rules and regulations and adherence to legalities and procedures. All of us must display solidarity as we try to stamp out this common plague.

"I thus offer this fulsome and profound apology, at this difficult time for all people, as the world as a whole combats Covid-19.

"I spoke to both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste yesterday and I have listened carefully to their views, which I respect. I have been reporting to the President of the European Commission on all these matters in recent days," he said.

Mr Hogan on Friday issued an apology, but Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had then asked the EU Commissioner to consider his position.

A Government spokesperson said: "They both believe the event should never have been held, that the Commissioner's apology came late and that he still needs to give a full account and explanation of his actions."

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Varadkar said he welcomed a more detailed apology from Mr Hogan, saying: "I am glad he has done that, I think it helps, it would have been better if it had done come sooner."

However, he said that a further explanation was needed.

"It is our view that an apology is welcome but he also needs to account for himself and answer any questions that might arise, not just in relation to the dinner but also in relation to his movements around Ireland... If he can't do that, then he needs to consider his position," he said.

The Tánaiste said the golf dinner should not have happened, adding that it was a huge insult to the people around the country who have sacrificed so much so far, such as weddings and christenings.

He said it had done "serious damage to our national effort" to suppress Covid-19.


Read more: Golf event at the nexus of Covid-19 and Brexit


Mr Varadkar said he and the Taoiseach spoke with Phil Hogan, asking him about the dinner, his movements in and out of the country, and his movements in and out of Kildare.

He said the EU Trade Commissioner believes he has broken no law, but "does accept he may have breached some of the Government's public health guidelines".

Mr Varadkar said Mr Hogan believes that it was "an honest mistake" as "he is not resident in the country and would not be as familiar with them".

He said he has not been speaking to Ms von der Leyen about Mr Hogan, but said she is aware of the situation.

The Tánaiste said he "could not believe it" when he heard the event in Clifden happened, and that it was up to Mr Hogan to defend his own actions.

He said there is an "absolute separation" between the Government and the judiciary so would not comment on Séamus Wolfe's attendance at the golf dinner.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it would be "very very alarming" and "deeply concerning" if Mr Hogan were not to resign, despite the Government asking him to consider his position.

Asked on the same programme if the resignation of Mr Justice Woulfe or Mr Hogan would restore some level of confidence in the Government, Ms McDonald said it was clear that Mr Hogan had lost the confidence of the Government, which meant that was "game over".

Ms McDonald said either the Government has confidence in Mr Hogan and believes he should stay on, or says it has no confidence, which it has done, meaning Mr Hogan's position is "untenable".

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan said that while Mr Hogan was foolish to attend the event in Clifden, it would be contrary to the national interest in terms of Brexit talks for him to resign.

Mr O'Callaghan said he is very angry about what happened in Clifden, saying it has damaged the reputation of every Oireachtas member, not just those who were in attendance.

In relation to the situation regarding Mr Hogan, he said we need to ensure the anger we all justifiably feel does not fully dictate the response.

Mr O'Callaghan said we need to recognise this is an issue about what is in the national interest, rather than just punishing Mr Hogan for a stupid mistake.

He said Mr Hogan is the EU Trade Commissioner, and so if he resigns, the likelihood is Ireland loses that portfolio, and we will lose a huge advantage in terms of Brexit talks.

On Mr Justice Woulfe, Mr O'Callaghan said he should not have gone to the event. He said that by going, there was an interference in the separation of powers.

After the Oireachtas Golf Society event came to light in the Irish Examiner on Thursday, gardaí launched an investigation into the event in respect of Covid-19 restrictions.

Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe commented on Twitter: "I've never been a fan of Phil Hogan; we clashed regularly when we were on the Oireachtas Environment Committee.

"The downside if he goes? Replacing a Trade Commissioner and many from his cabinet at this crucial juncture in EU-Brexit negotiations would strengthen the UK's hand."

Mr Cuffe added that he still thought Mr Hogan should go, saying: "I am just pointing out the downside."

Independent MEP for Midlands North West Luke Ming Flanagan tweeted a copy of an email he has sent Ms von der Leyen.

He told her that Mr Hogan had "sent out a message to people that the rules are not for everyone".

The MEP said in the email: "It is, I understand, within your powers to remove the Commissioner from his position. You need to do this immediately otherwise the message that people must comply with rules on Covid-19 is lost and with it, lives will be lost. Do the right thing."

The Irish Hotels Federation said that there are "challenges" in the way the Government is communicating its public health advice to businesses.

It added that there is often a time-lag in the implementation of measures, as businesses await guidance from the relevant department.