EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has told RTÉ News that he broke no regulations while in Ireland, was no risk to anybody but made big mistakes and is very embarrassed.
Speaking on RTÉ Six One News, he apologised once again for attending the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co Galway last week but denied breaching Covid-19 quarantine rules.
Mr Hogan repeatedly argued that the fact that he tested negative for Covid-19 exempted him from the requirement to restrict movements for 14 days.
This evening the Department of Health said a person is required to restrict their movements for 14 days if they arrive into Ireland from a country not on the green list.
It said the guidance does not state that a negative Covid-19 test shortens the 14-days requirement.
Earlier, the EU Trade Commissioner published a timeline of his movements after arriving here from Brussels in late July, including details of a trip to Adare, Co Limerick to play golf on 13 August.
Mr Hogan said he arrived in Ireland on 31 July and travelled to his temporary residence in Co Kildare, before being admitted to a Dublin hospital on 5 August.
He said he tested negative for Covid-19 while in hospital and was discharged the next day before returning to his residence in Kildare.
"I didn't put anyone at risk, because I had already been tested and was clear"— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan says he put nobody at risk at the event because he was in compliance with the regulations, but says going to the event was a mistake | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 pic.twitter.com/RiMbkDCBRn
In an interview this evening, Mr Hogan said: "I am satisfied arising from the test that I did that proved it was negative that I was no risk to anybody."
"Because of the fact that I had a negative test. Because my medical people said I was no risk to anybody. I checked with the Citizens Information website, which is funded by the HSE, and I felt that I was no risk to anybody by going to Adare.
"I understand the perception. I was covered by the regulations that my work-related activities and under the regulation there is a reasonable excuse mechanism that allowed me the exemption to do that."
Earlier, he provided around 20 pages of documents to the President of the European Commission in the ongoing controversy over his trip and the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co Galway, according to an EU official.
The documents include guidelines from the Irish Hotels Federation and a map of Ireland showing individual counties.
"I was wrong, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have gone"— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan apologises for attending the controversial dinner in Clifden | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 pic.twitter.com/vrgs9MfP75
Mr Hogan said he accepts that he should not have attended the Clifden event.
"In hindsight, I was wrong and a made a mistake ... and I apologise for it. I am embarrassed about it."
Mr Hogan said he "self-isolated for the days up to the 5th of August. My doctor said I was free to go (after testing negative).
"I looked at the Citizens Information website … It's there in black and white if you do not have Covid-19 and you're tested negatively you are not required to self-isolate."
Asked about the Government advice to restrict movement, Mr Hogan said: "Well, I don’t accept that … I did everything possible to ensure that I was no risk to anybody".
"Well, I don't accept that. I did everything to ensure I was no risk to anybody"— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
Phil Hogan says he doesn’t accept the advice from the health service which states that even if you test negative, you must restrict your movements for 14 days | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 pic.twitter.com/dw0oTSvy05
Phil Hogan controversy: The last thing the EU needs
Hogan tells Commission he was assured event was compliant
Hogan says he 'complied fully' with quarantine requirements
Timeline of Phil Hogan's movements in Ireland
Mr Hogan said he accepts he should have apologised in full last Friday.
"I should have issued a fulsome apology on the Friday when all of this was breaking. I did not do so, and I regret that. I apologised strongly on Sunday and I did that in as fulsome a way as I possibly could.
"I broke no regulations in my view. I did my work. I was home on holidays. I tested negative for Covid-19 but I did not break any Covid-19 regulations.
"I apologise profusely to the Ireland people and I hope they will accept that," Mr Hogan said.
"I understand the perception; I made a mistake by being in Co Kildare that day and being stopped for lifting a mobile phone"— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
Phil Hogan says his stop in Kildare was covered under regulations in relation to work-related activities | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 pic.twitter.com/xHyEhhMGj0
"I have made a mistake. I have apologised for that. I have damaged my reputation. I hope it hasn't damaged the reputation of the (European) Commission to any great extent. There are 26 other commissioners.
"At the end of the day I am asking the Irish people that I can acknowledge to them that I did everything I possibly could to comply with the Covid regulations.
"I have apologised. I have communicated all of that to the Irish people, to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, and it is now it is up to the (EU) commissioner to decide whether I complied with all of the regulations, and I believe I did.
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan tells @tconnellyRTE he is embarrassed about attending the event, and says a gathering of that nature was not appropriate at this time | More: https://t.co/RE6IbDVbN0 pic.twitter.com/LYTZOkjb9E— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2020
"I know many families have been suffering. Many families whose relatives have died, the frontline workers that are doing excellent work, I have to say I got a greater appreciation of that when I was in Ireland. I have to say I did not realise that fully enough while I have been here in Brussels."
Advice does not apply to people arriving into country - CIB
The Citizens Information Board has issued a statement following Mr Hogan's interview, stating that it is not funded by the HSE.
The CIB also said that they are not an official source of Government information but integrate information from a range of sources.
"We are confident in the accuracy of our information," the statement says.
The CIB also said that the webpage on Testing for Covid-19 covers information for people in Ireland who may need to be tested for the virus on the advice of the HSE.
This advice "does not apply to people who must restrict their movements for 14 days upon entry to the State," the board added.
Hogan tells Commission he adhered to guidelines
In his earlier statement, Mr Hogan said he adhered to the Government's Covid-19 guidelines at all times while in Ireland.
He also stated that he fully accepts that it is "abundantly clear that the event should not have been held" and that he should not have attended the Clifden dinner.
In the details he provided to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Mr Hogan says he arrived in Ireland on 31 July and travelled to his temporary residence in Kildare, before being admitted to a Dublin hospital on 5 August.
Mr Hogan said he tested negative for Covid-19 while in hospital and was discharged the next day before returning to his residence in Co Kildare.
"As I had received a negative Covid-19 test while in hospital, I was not under any subsequent legal requirement to self-isolate or quarantine," he said in his statement.
However, according to the HSE Coronavirus helpline, travellers to Ireland from a non-green list country must restrict their movement for the full 14-day period, regardless if they test negative for Covid-19 after their arrival.
In his statement, Mr Hogan said he travelled from Co Kildare to Co Kilkenny on 7 August, the day the Government reimposed restrictions on the county. Mr Hogan said he travelled "before the local lockdown rules came into effect".
The Commissioner said he travelled to Dublin on 12 August for "essential work reasons", and while there he met with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Robert Troy.
Mr Hogan said he played golf in Adare, Co Limerick the following day and returned to Kilkenny.
He said that on 17 August he travelled from Co Kilkenny to Co Galway via Co Kildare. In the statement Mr Hogan said he "stopped briefly" in Co Kildare at the property he had been staying in to collect some "personal belongings and essential papers".
Mr Hogan said he played golf in Clifden, Co Galway on 18 and 19 August, and attended a formal dinner on 19 August.
He said he returned from Galway to Kildare on 21 August "to collect my remaining personal belongings", and stayed there overnight to catch an early morning flight to his primary residence in Brussels the next morning.
Memorandum to President von der Leyen outlining the relevant requirements issued by the Irish Government in relation to #Covid19, and how I adhered to them at all times during my recent visit to Ireland: https://t.co/ZhwJ7SwIPUPhil Hogan (@PhilHoganEU) August 25, 2020
Having sent an initial report to President von der Leyen on Sunday night, Ireland's EU commissioner was asked for further clarifications yesterday, and this morning the President's spokesperson said she had set a deadline of 2pm Brussels time for any outstanding information.
The spokesperson told reporters this morning that Ms von der Leyen also expected Mr Hogan to publish a timeline of all of his movements in Ireland during his stay.
The extra clarifications appear to focus on the varying lockdown rules that applied in different counties.
Ms Von der Leyen's spokesperson said this morning that she needed further context on the local lockdown rules which, she said, differed from county to county.
However, asked if Mr Hogan would have to resign, the spokesperson said that it was "absolutely premature" to talk about what sanction he may or may not face once Ms von der Leyen had concluded her findings.
One official said there had been intense contacts between the President's office and Mr Hogan's cabinet, with documents being provided as requested.
It is understood these included the guidelines on Covid-19 compliance issued by the Irish Hotels Federation, and a map of Ireland showing Kilkenny in relation to other counties.
It is understood the formal Commission response to the controversy could come as soon as later this afternoon.
Dara Calleary resigned as Minister for Agriculture and Jerry Buttimer resigned as Seanad Leas-Cathaoirleach on 21 August after it was confirmed they were also at the dinner.
President of the Oireachtas Golf Society and former TD and senator Donie Cassidy also resigned as vice president of Fianna Fáil in the wake of the controversy.
The Supreme Court has requested retired chief justice Susan Denham to prepare a report on the actions of Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe over his attendance at the golf dinner.