Simon Coveney: High-profile minister to step away after 13 years in Cabinet

Simon Coveney: High-Profile Minister To Step Away After 13 Years In Cabinet
Simon Coveney is a popular member of Fine Gael and is well-liked in his constituency of Cork South Central.
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By Cate McCurry, PA

Simon Coveney – one of Fine Gael's most high-profile ministers – is to step down from the Government as the country prepares to usher in its new national leader.

However, doubts remain over the 51-year-old’s political future as he has refused to confirm whether he will contest the next general election.


Mr Coveney is a popular member of Fine Gael and is well-liked in his constituency of Cork South Central.

He has served in several ministerial roles during his 13 years in Cabinet, including in the enterprise, foreign affairs, defence, housing, and agriculture departments.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and then-foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney at Hillsborough Castle in September 2022 (Niall Carson/PA)


The outgoing deputy leader was also Tánaiste from November 2017 to June 2020.

Mr Coveney was first elected to the Dáil in 1998 as one of Fine Gael’s youngest TDs and held shadow ministries in the areas of drugs and youth affairs, communications, marine and natural resources, and transport.

The father-of-three developed a high profile while serving as foreign affairs minister and managing the Irish-British relationship during the UK’s tumultuous exit from the European Union.

He often made public statements urging the UK to soften its hard stance on Brexit and Northern Ireland matters.


During his time as Tánaiste, Mr Coveney made a number of trips to Northern Ireland as part of the Brexit negotiations.

Houben Centre incident
Simon Coveney is informed of a security alert while speaking at a peace-building event at The Houben Centre in Belfast. Photo: Hume Foundation/PA.

In March 2022, as he addressed a peace-building event in Belfast, Mr Coveney had to be ushered from the room due to a bomb threat.


He described the security alert, which was a hoax, as a “futile and cowardly exercise”.

Mr Coveney was also foreign affairs minister when it was confirmed that Ireland has won its fight for a seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 term.

In August 2018, Mr Coveney and his three daughters, Beth, Jessica and Annalise, welcomed Pope Francis to Ireland as he stepped off the plane in Dublin.

The girls greeted the Pope in Italian, Spanish and English.


As part of Leo Varadkar’s Cabinet reshuffle in December 2022, Mr Coveney was appointed enterprise minister, a role that he will now relinquish next week.

Mr Coveney’s efforts to become Fine Gael leader in 2017 failed when he unsuccessfully ran for the top role against Leo Varadkar.

After Mr Varadkar made the shock announcement last month that he would be stepping down as party leader, attention turned to Mr Coveney’s intentions.

Simon Coveney to step down from Cabinet
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But he said that, following discussions with his family, he had decided not to contest the Fine Gael leadership, adding that he has daughters who are entering their teenage years.

He is a keen fan of competitive sport, and played rugby for Garryowen, Cork Constitution and Crosshaven Rugby Club.

The qualified sailing instructor and lifeguard also led the Sail Chernobyl Project, involving sailing 30,000 miles around the world for charity in 1998.

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