Simon Coveney

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Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney in Washington DC 2015 (cropped).jpg
Coveney in 2015
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Assumed office
14 June 2017
TaoiseachLeo Varadkar
Micheál Martin
Preceded byCharles Flanagan
Minister for Defence
Assumed office
27 June 2020
TaoiseachMicheál Martin
Preceded byLeo Varadkar
In office
11 July 2014 – 6 May 2016
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Preceded byEnda Kenny
Succeeded byEnda Kenny
Deputy Leader of Fine Gael
Assumed office
13 June 2017
LeaderLeo Varadkar
Preceded byJames Reilly
President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
Assumed office
20 May 2022
Preceded byLuigi Di Maio
Tánaiste
In office
30 November 2017 – 27 June 2020
TaoiseachLeo Varadkar
Preceded byFrances Fitzgerald
Succeeded byLeo Varadkar
Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
In office
6 May 2016 – 14 June 2017
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Preceded byAlan Kelly
Succeeded byEoghan Murphy
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
In office
9 March 2011 – 6 May 2016
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Preceded byBrendan Smith
Succeeded byMichael Creed
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
October 1998
ConstituencyCork South-Central
Member of the European Parliament
In office
20 July 2004 – 24 June 2007
ConstituencySouth
Personal details
Born (1972-06-16) 16 June 1972 (age 50)
Cork, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Spouse(s)
Ruth Furney
(m. 2008)
Children3
Parent(s)
EducationClongowes Wood College
Alma mater
Websitesimoncoveney.ie

Simon Coveney (born 16 June 1972) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of Fine Gael since 2017 and Minister for Defence since 2020. He has served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cork South-Central constituency since 1998. He previously served as Tánaiste from 2017 to 2020, Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government from 2016 to 2017 and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine from 2011 to 2016. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South constituency from 2004 to 2007.[1]

He was elected to Dáil Éireann in a by-election in 1998, following the death of his father Hugh Coveney.

After the formation of the coalition government in March 2011, Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Following a cabinet reshuffle in July 2014, which saw him also take over the position of Minister for Defence.[2] Following the formation of a Fine Gael minority government in May 2016, he was appointed Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.[3] In June 2017, after Leo Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, Varadkar appointed Coveney as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Deputy Leader of Fine Gael. He was appointed Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) in November 2017, following the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald. As part of the new government formed following the 2020 general election, Coveney was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence in the new cabinet.

Early life[edit]

Coveney was born in Cork in 1972 to Hugh Coveney and Pauline Coveney. His father was a chartered quantity surveyor and later a TD, and also a member of one of the famous merchant families in the city. His uncle is Archbishop Patrick Coveney. Simon was educated locally in Cork, before later attending Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare. He was expelled from the college in Transition Year but ultimately was invited back to complete his full six years there. He repeated his Leaving Certificate in Bruce College in Cork.[4] Coveney subsequently attended University College Cork and Gurteen Agricultural College, before completing a BSc in Agriculture and Land Management from Royal Agricultural College, Gloucestershire. In 1997/8, he led the “Sail Chernobyl Project” which involved sailing a boat 30,000 miles around the world and raising €650,000 for charity. He spent several years working as an agriculture adviser and farm manager.

His brother, Patrick, is chief executive of the food corporation Greencore.[5]

Political career[edit]

Early years in Dáil Éireann: 1998–2004[edit]

Coveney was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael candidate for Cork South-Central in a by-election, caused by the death of his father in 1998. In spite of being a strong supporter of party leader John Bruton, he remained on the backbenches for a number of years.

In 2001, discipline in the parliamentary party broke down and Coveney came out against Bruton in a leadership heave. His loss of support was a surprise and encouraged others to vote against Bruton. The subsequent leadership contest was won by Michael Noonan and a new front bench was put in place.

After an initial period on the backbenches, Coveney was promoted to the Front Bench by Michael Noonan, as deputy chief whip.

Coveney was re-elected at the 2002 general election, in what turned out to be a disaster for Fine Gael. The party lost twenty-three seats and some of its most important party figures. Noonan was replaced as party leader by Enda Kenny, who promoted Coveney to the position of Spokesperson on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, in his new front bench.

Member of the European Parliament: 2004–2007[edit]

Coveney as an MEP

Coveney was elected to the European Parliament for the South constituency, in the 2004 European Parliament election. During his three years as an MEP, Coveney held the position of human rights co-ordinator for the largest political group in the European Parliament, the European People's Party, and twice authored the Parliament's Annual Report on Human Rights in the world. He spearheaded the Stop the Traffic campaign at the European Parliament. He was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Delegation for Relations with the United States and a substitute on the Human Rights Subcommittee, Fisheries Committee, Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee and the Delegation for Relations with Iran.

Return to the Dáil: 2007–2011[edit]

Coveney returned to Ireland to contest the 2007 general election. He was successful in being returned to the Dáil, as a result, he stepped down as a Member of the European Parliament. He was replaced in the European Parliament by Colm Burke.[6]

Fine Gael won back many of the seats that the party had lost five years earlier; however, they still fell short of forming a coalition government with the Labour Party. Coveney returned to the party's front bench as Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

In June 2010, Coveney and a number of other front bench Spokespersons stated that they had no confidence in their party leader, Enda Kenny. A subsequent confidence motion in the leader was won by Kenny.[7] Coveney was re-appointed to the front bench as Spokesperson on Transport.[8]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: 2011–2016[edit]

On 9 March 2011, Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in the new Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition government.

He attended his first meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers, in Brussels on 17 March 2011.[9]

Coveney provoked controversy when, in September 2011, he flew to Algeria, on the government jet at a cost of more than €26,000 to the Irish taxpayer when there were flights available for €16,331.[10] While there, Coveney cut a ribbon at the opening of a supermarket in Oran.[11][12]

In May 2014, Coveney attended a meeting of the Bilderberg Group, in Copenhagen.[13]

Minister for Defence: 2014–2016[edit]

Fmr. Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt Gen Conor O'Boyle briefing then Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

On 11 July 2014, Coveney was also appointed as Minister for Defence, in a cabinet reshuffle, following the resignation of Eamon Gilmore as Tánaiste. He took over from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was the acting Minister for Defence, following Alan Shatter's resignation from cabinet, in May 2014.[14] As Minister for Defence, Coveney launched the White Paper on Defence in August 2015.[15]

On 17 June 2015, Coveney questioned the judgment of an experienced Air Corps pilot who refused to fly him to Cork, because of predicted fog. In email correspondence between Department of Defence officials, the Air Corps is described as being “very unhappy” about the incident and[16] indicating that they had never received such a call in 25 years.”

In January 2017 it emerged that a number of Air Corps whistleblowers had attempted to contact Coveney while he was Defence Minister over their concerns about the adverse health impacts of chemicals used to service the force's aircraft. The whistleblowers had complained about being unable to speak to Coveney about the issue, however Coveney claimed he was “not aware of there being any problem with hearing from, or talking to, or understanding the concerns that whistleblowers may have”.

The Irish Examiner subsequently published a series of text messages between one of the whistleblowers and then-Chief Whip Regina Doherty sent in January 2016. Doherty forwarded a text message onto one of the whistleblowers that she said came from Coveney, in which he said he would call this whistleblower the next day. The call never took place.[17]

Speaking in the Dáil on the revelations, Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin described the Government handling of the whistleblowers' complaints as 'a scandal'.[18]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government: 2016–17[edit]

On 6 May 2016, Coveney was appointed the new Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny taking over the Defence portfolio and Fine Gael TD Michael Creed becoming the new Minister for Agriculture.[19]

Fine Gael leadership election: 2017[edit]

On 2 June 2017, Coveney lost the 2017 Fine Gael leadership election to Leo Varadkar, despite gaining the support of 65% of party members (party members only had 25% of the vote in Fine Gael's electoral college). The winner was expected to succeed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. On 13 June 2017, it was announced that he would be the deputy leader of the party.[20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade: 2017–present[edit]

Coveney with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in 2021

After Leo Varadkar was appointed Taoiseach, by the President of Ireland, as part of his new cabinet, Coveney was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, with special responsibilities for Brexit.[21] Coveney replaced Charles Flanagan, who became Minister for Justice and Equality. It was understood Coveney heavily lobbied Varadkar for the role as he wanted a large role on Brexit. In his capacity as Minister, he has also been co-chairing the European People's Party (EPP) Justice and Home Affairs Ministers Meeting since 2018, alongside Esteban González Pons.[22]

According to Lawrence Franklin of the Gatestone Institute, within the Irish government, Coveney opposes the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill to ban goods produced in Israeli settlements. He has expressed concern that the bill might contravene EU trade law.[23]

In July 2020, he was re-appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Trade part of the portfolio was transferred to another government department.

On 25 March 2022, Coveney was giving a speech in Belfast when he forced to leave the stage, following the discovery of a "suspect device" in a hjacked van in the carpark. Coveney had been speaking following a meeting with the John and Pat Hume Foundation.[24]

Coveney and Ireland's ambassador to Ukraine Thérèse Healy visited Ukraine on 13 April 2022 where Coveney met his counterparts, Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and defence minister Oleksii Reznikov, in Kyiv and visited the site of the Bucha massacre the following day. Coveney travelled via Poland and was the first foreign minister on the UN Security Council to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February. He was also accompanied by a political adviser and a protection team.[25][26][27]

On 20 May 2022, Coveney took over from Luigi Di Maio as chairman of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. He will serve in this role until November 2022.[28]

Tánaiste[edit]

On 30 November 2017, Leo Varadkar named Coveney as the new Tánaiste, replacing Frances Fitzgerald.[29]

Brexit negotiations[edit]

On 27 January 2019, Coveney in an interview with Andrew Marr, said the Irish backstop in the Brexit withdrawal agreement will not be changed. He said the backstop was already a pragmatic compromise between the United Kingdom and the European Union to avoid infrastructure on the Irish border, that there was no sensible legally-sound alternative to the backstop, and that the European Parliament would not ratify a Brexit withdrawal agreement without the backstop in it.[30]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Coveney headed up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of the Government of Ireland. On 10 March 2020, he upgraded travel advice recommending that Irish citizens do not travel to Italy. He added that people should think carefully about unnecessary public gatherings and urged the public to play their part and help themselves by following advice and doing practical things like sneezing and washing hands properly.[31]

Katherine Zappone controversy[edit]

In July 2021, Coveney found himself embroiled in a political scandal relating to the appointment of former Fine Gael Minister Katherine Zappone as a special envoy to the UN. During a cabinet meeting of the coalition government, Coveney proposed Zappone for the role without having previously discussed the matter with Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Martin expressed concerns about the appointment but ultimately allowed it.[32] Subsequently, it emerged that Coveneny had not advertised or offered the role to anyone but Zappone,[33] and that in the run-up to the appointment, Zappone had hosted an event at the Merrion Hotel in breach of COVID-19 regulations for many members of the political establishment, including Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.[34][35] In response, many opposition parties accused the appointment as being a product of cronyism.[36] As a result of the controversy, Zappone later declined to take up the role.[37] In September, Coveney admitted that he had deleted texts from his phone in relation to the Zappone affair. Coveney gave a number of reasons for deleting the texts, including that he had deleted them for more storage space, and for security reasons as his phone had previously been "hacked". Coveney's explanations were criticised by many members of the Dáil, including by members of government coalition members Fianna Fáil. Senator Catherine Ardagh of Fianna Fáil stated it "beggars belief that important text messages related to work matters would be deleted” while Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said "Modern phones have ample storage without having to frequently delete. I would also question to what extent is there an obligation on those subject to Freedom of Information to retain such information".[38]

On 15 September, upon the return of Dáil Éireann from a summer recess, a motion of no confidence was brought forward by Sinn Féin against Coveney as a direct result of the Zappone appointment and his subsequent handling of the affair in the aftermath of the details becoming public. Regardless, Coveney survived the motion 92 votes to 59 as the government parties enforced the whip on the vote, while Independent TDs generally sided with the government on the vote as well.[39]

Personal life[edit]

Coveney married his long-time girlfriend Ruth Furney, an IDA Ireland employee, in July 2008.[40] They have three daughters and live in Carrigaline in Cork.[41][42]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Simon Coveney". Oireachtas Members Database. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Taoiseach announces new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 11 July 2014. Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  3. ^ "Frances Fitzgerald is Tánaiste in new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 6 May 2016. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  4. ^ "Miriam Meets... Patrick and Simon Coveney, TD". RTÉ Radio 1. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Fionnan Sheahan: It's game on in Fine Gael as Simon goes on a listening tour and Leo sees his lead narrow in contest". Irish Independent. 6 May 2017. Archived from the original on 6 May 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  6. ^ "Simon Coveney". ElectionsIreland.org. Archived from the original on 3 February 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  7. ^ "Kenny survives confidence vote". RTÉ News. 17 June 2010. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Bruton & Noonan return to Fine Gael frontbench". RTÉ News. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  9. ^ "Simon Coveney to attend EU agriculture talks". RTÉ News. 16 March 2011. Archived from the original on 14 November 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  10. ^ McQuinn, Cormac; Sheehan, Aideen (9 November 2011). "Coveney stands by €26,000 spend on government jet". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  11. ^ McQuinn, Cormac (8 November 2011). "Coveney 'cut ribbon' for shop on €26,000 jet trip to Algeria". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 10 November 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  12. ^ "The Government Minister, the supermarket-opening and the €26,000 bill". JOE. 8 November 2011. Archived from the original on 10 November 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  13. ^ "This minister is heading to the secretive Bilderberg summit – but in a 'private capacity'". TheJournal.ie. 28 May 2014. Archived from the original on 8 June 2015.
  14. ^ "Letter of resignation" (PDF). Static.rasset.ie. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 May 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  15. ^ Minihan, Mary (27 August 2015). "Simon Coveney says Ireland has under-invested in defence". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Coveney challenged pilot who refused to fly due to fog forecast". Irishtimes.ie. Archived from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ Leogue, Joe (8 February 2017). "Texts suggest Simon Coveney knew of Air Corps whistleblowers". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  18. ^ Oireachtas, Houses of the (1 February 2017). "Leaders' Questions – Dáil Éireann (32nd Dáil) – Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017 – Houses of the Oireachtas". www.oireachtas.ie. Archived from the original on 24 December 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Frances Fitzgerald is Tánaiste in new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 6 May 2016. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  20. ^ "Varadkar appoints Coveney as deputy Fine Gael leader". RTÉ News. 13 June 2017. Archived from the original on 13 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Coveney appointed Irish foreign minister". BBC News. 15 June 2017. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  22. ^ Council of the EU and Ministerial meetings Archived 27 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine European People’s Party (EPP).
  23. ^ Franklin, Lawrence (29 July 2019). "Dublin's Anti-Israel Boycott Bill: Bad for Ireland, Worse for the Palestinians, Terrible for Everyone". Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  24. ^ McClements, Freya; Horgan-Jones, Jack. "'Suspect device' discovery following van hijacking halts speech by Simon Coveney in Belfast". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  25. ^ Coveney visits site of mass grave in 'devastated' Bucha RTÉ News, 2022-04-15.
  26. ^ Simon Coveney in Kyiv: Minister taken by special forces to secret location for talks Irish Independent, 2020-04-15.
  27. ^ Ukraine war: Coveney visits Kyiv to meet Ukrainian government BBC News, 2022-04-15.
  28. ^ "Ireland takes over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers". www.coe.int. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  29. ^ "Everything you need to know about the new Tánaiste Simon Coveney". Irish Independent. 1 December 2017. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  30. ^ "There will be no change to the Brexit backstop, says Coveney". Irish Times. 27 January 2019. Archived from the original on 5 September 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Irish citizens recommended not to go to Italy - Coveney". 10 March 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  32. ^ Ryan, Philip (27 July 2021). "Taoiseach not told in advance of decision to appoint Katherine Zappone to taxpayer-funded UN role". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  33. ^ McConnell, Daniel (28 July 2021). "Zappone lobbied Simon Coveney for Special Envoy role". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 4 August 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  34. ^ Ryan, Philip (4 August 2021). "Katherine Zappone 'assured by hotel' that party with 50 friends, including Tánaiste, was in line with Covid-19 restrictions". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 9 August 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  35. ^ Loughlin, Elaine (4 August 2021). "'Striking similarities' between golfgate controversy and Katherine Zappone function". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 4 August 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  36. ^ Moloney, Senan (29 July 2021). ""We look like fools" – TDs upset at how Katherine Zappone was given job as free speech envoy". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 4 August 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  37. ^ Hosford, Paul (4 August 2021). "Breaking: Zappone will not take up Special Envoy role". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 4 August 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  38. ^ O'Connell, Hugh (1 September 2021). "Merriongate: Simon Coveney admits he deleted crucial text messages with Zappone and Varadkar". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 15 September 2021.
  39. ^ Duffy, Rónán (15 September 2021). "Minister Simon Coveney wins confidence vote in the Dáil by 92 votes to 59". thejournal.ie. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021.
  40. ^ "Coveney marries long-term sweetheart". Irish Examiner. 28 July 2008. Archived from the original on 28 April 2021. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  41. ^ Sheehy, Clodagh (26 February 2013). "Girls Aloud: Simon Coveney welcomes third daughter baby Annalise". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 28 April 2021. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  42. ^ Anderson, Nicola (22 May 2017). "At home with the Coveneys: my husband is far from boring and will be fighting on". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.

External links[edit]

Oireachtas
Preceded by Fine Gael Teachta Dála
for Cork South-Central

1998–present
Incumbent
European Parliament
New constituency Member of the European Parliament
for South

2004–07
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
2011–2016
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
2016–2017
Succeeded by
Preceded by Tánaiste
2017–2020
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Foreign Affairs
2017–present
Incumbent
Preceded by Minister for Defence
2020–present
Party political offices
Preceded by Deputy Leader of Fine Gael
2017–present
Incumbent