What a sense of entitlement... Phil gave two fingers to us all

The Irish electorate helped put Phil Hogan on the map - but he showed us scant respect during Golfgate, says Áilín Quinlan
What a sense of entitlement... Phil gave two fingers to us all
Phil Hogan: Showed scant respect for the pain and distress visited on this country by Covid-19

I DON’T know Phil Hogan. I’ve never met him. But I’ve developed a deep dislike of the guy.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt such antipathy to somebody I don’t even know.

This is a man who got to where he is, not only through his own talents, but also through the support of the Irish electorate, the Fine Gael party and his government.

Alas, the man who has clambered to such high office from all of our shoulders doesn’t seem to think much of us.

The EU Commissioner didn’t seem to get the Department of Foreign Affairs regulations that he was required to self-isolate, even after testing negative, because he’d flown in from a Covid-high-risk country.

Now, lads, if an EU Commissioner arrives in an EU member state and breaks the rules of that state, does that actually mean he’s too big to have to toe the line?

I don’t envy Ursula von der Leyen. After all, how can the President of the European Commission stand over such a scenario unless she agrees with it?

RTÉ’s Tony Connelly pointed out repeatedly to Phil Hogan during their interview before he resigned that, according to the rules, he should have stayed inside for 14 days because he had arrived from a high-risk country like Belgium.

Phil conveniently considered himself of no risk to anybody.

En route to Clifden, the former MEP stopped off in Kildare, which, as it so happened (according to more of the pesky rules this unimportant little country is insisting on) was in a state of localised lockdown. This meant that the little people were prohibited from leaving that county other than for absolutely essential reasons. But Phil could. Was it because he’s so important?

Phil had to pick up these hyper-important, ultra-sensitive, hand-written notes relating to a highly sensitive EU trade agreement with the USA (before going on to play golf for a couple of days, followed by a big gala dinner.)

Apparently, Phil could fit his golf around these internationally important discussions (or vice versa?).

My, my, don’t I wish I had Phil Hogan’s time management capacity and utter confidence about bringing such a sheaf of super-important, sensitive and presumably confidential international documents to, er, a golf tournament. In Clifden. Sure, is it any wonder the man got to where he is today?

Moving around the way he did, breaking the localised lockdown the way he did, attending that outrageous dinner the way he did, being caught driving with a mobile phone... all showed scant respect for the horror, grief, pain and distress that has been visited on so many in this country by the pandemic.

Not to mention the exhaustion and burn-out experienced by our health personnel, the self-employed, businesses of all kinds, and by the hard-pressed education sector.

One primary teacher told me how a fellow staff member expressed surprise about something on calling in to his school some days before the start of the new term. He had noticed, he said, that their school principal had signed in at 5.30am that day. Surely, he commented, that was a mistake?

No, the other teacher explained, the school principal had been signing in around 5am for many weeks now. Of course he was. He and other head teachers are carrying the absolutely massive, critical responsibility for Covid, which has been delegated to them by the Department of Education and the government. It’s causing enormous stress and mountains of extra work.

Staff are deeply concerned about managing the return to school and about the health risk to their students and to themselves. Many teachers with serious underlying conditions which put them at high risk — conditions such as high blood pressure, or who are on immune-suppressant medication for very serious reason — have, for some strange reason, been ruled OK to return to the classroom.

It’s important, by the way, to realise the kind of stress teachers and school principals have been working under for many weeks now — and to cut them a bit of slack. The same goes for all those working themselves to the bone to manage the Covid risk — whether they’re running a small local bookshop, a school, a nursing home, a hospital, or a retail outlet of some other kind. Cut them all some slack!

In this context, Phil Hogan’s behaviour in tootling insouciantly around the place in his car (while using a mobile phone) and attending a big golf dinner which broke all the guidelines, does not just fail to acknowledge what this country has been through. It gives the two fingers to the lot of us.

Eh, who is this man? Phil Hogan seems to have no sense of loyalty either to his country or to the people who gave him his start in domestic and international politics.

His only sense of accountability either officially or on a personal basis, is to Ms von der Leyen.

Hogan is no child, but he is born of Ireland, and his behaviour reminds me of the quote from King Lear: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

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