Phil Hogan: I might seek compensation for the loss of my job, you know

Remarkable. On the one hand, one might feel some sympathy for Phil Hogan: He was, in retrospect, a victim of a kind of national hysteria around covid, and covid regulations, and ultimately lost his job for attending a golf event that the Irish courts have found to have been compliant with the law at the time it took place. He did not do anything illegal. And he lost his job anyway. One might understand why that would rankle, and leave him feeling very upset.

On the other hand: C’mon now:

Former Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan has not ruled out seeking compensation from the EU Commission over the events which led to his resignation in August 2020.

Mr Hogan said he did not rule out the idea of “demanding compensation for the damage suffered”.

In his interview with Liberation, Mr Hogan has suggested Ms von der Leyen and her staff put pressure on him to step down. The article quotes him as saying she wanted to ended the matter as quickly as possible and wanted him to leave.

“She immediately believed the interpretation given by the Irish Government. It claimed that I had undermined its pandemic strategy by my actions.”

He also claimed Ms von der Leyen demanded he give an interview to RTÉ to explain his position.

There are a couple of things to note here. The first is the most important: Mr. Hogan resigned. He was not sacked. Indeed, Ms von der Leyen had no power to sack him, nor did the Irish Government. He resigned because he lost the confidence of the Irish public, and of his colleagues. The fact that he did nothing illegal is entirely irrelevant. Many, many, ministers and public officials have lost jobs for doing nothing illegal in the past, and many will lose them for doing nothing illegal in the future.

Politics is not like other jobs. In a democratic society, you do not remain in office for life unless you commit gross misconduct. You depend on the confidence of the people you lead, as a leader. Mr. Hogan was a leader: one of the most senior officials in the European Union. Across the EU, people were advised by Governments not to mingle and socialise, and in many cases, were dissuaded from doing so by laws and regulations. Mr. Hogan may not have broken the letter of any regulation, but he certainly, in the public mind, broke the spirit of those regulations. There were not many regular Irish people attending gala dinners during golfgate.

The other thing about politics, as a profession, is this: Part of the high salary that these people are paid is to make up for the lack of job security. You give up your career to become a TD or a Minister or an EU commissioner, with no guarantee (at least on paper) that you will get it back. You might be out in a year or two, with no job to return to. For that reason, the salaries have to be high, and attractive. Because things like that which happened to Phil Hogan are an occupational hazard.

Ultimately, Phil Hogan could have forced the issue on this one, and simply not resigned. Perhaps he would have been removed from office by a vote of the EU parliament. Perhaps he would not. His resignation was based on a calculation that he could not survive politically, and that he was better off out. That was his calculation, and nobody else’s.

Besides, who should pay the compensation? The journalists who broke the story of his attendance? The members of the public who criticised him for it on liveline? The EU commission, whose President expressed disappointment in him? Ultimately, of course, the people to compensate Mr. Hogan, should he ever succeed, would be the taxpayers of Ireland and Europe. Who have absolutely no obligation to do so.

The truth of the matter is that this is the kind of entitled attitude that got Hogan into trouble in the first place. He was special enough, in his own mind, that he could attend the golfgate dinner without regard to public opinion. He is special enough now in his own mind to think that he has been uniquely mistreated, rather than a victim of his own actions, and nobody else’s. The idea that EU taxpayers owe him as much as a cent is ridiculous, and offensive nonsense. Let him wallow in self-pity if he wishes. This is a situation of his own making. And, in any case, he is not short of ways to make money. Open a lobbying firm, Phil, like everyone else in your position does.

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