Irish police caution adds to pressure on EU's Hogan

DUBLIN, Aug 24 (Reuters) - European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan was stopped and cautioned by police for using his mobile phone while driving to a golf dinner that has caused public outrage in his native Ireland over potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations.

Hogan apologised again on Sunday for attending the event after Ireland’s prime minister and deputy prime minister asked him to consider his position. An EU official said Hogan would not heed the calls to resign.

The golf dinner has infuriated Irish people who have been unable to attend funerals or had to cancel holidays or weddings because of some of the strictest COVID-19 rules in Europe.

It has led to other political resignations, including a cabinet minister, and Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Sunday said that it had damaged the national effort to fight COVID-19 at a time when infections are rising.

Signalling that the controversy had not been shrugged off in Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asked Hogan to deliver a full report of what happened, shortly after which Irish media reported details of the police incident.

“While driving in County Kildare, he (Hogan) was stopped by a Garda (police officer) for using his mobile phone while driving,” a spokesman for Hogan said late on Sunday, confirming that the politician had been cautioned for the offence.

Kildare was in a local lockdown after a spike in COVID-19 cases when Hogan returned briefly to his apartment to collect what his spokesman described as personal belongings and essential work documents relating to trade negotiations between the EU and United States.

The local lockdown guidelines provide for exceptional travel outside the county “to travel to work and home again”, the spokesman added.

Varadkar welcomed Sunday’s more detailed apology from Hogan, a former minister in the Fine Gael party, but said that a further explanation was required in respect of both his attendance at the dinner and his movements around Ireland.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin Editing by David Goodman