Simon Coveney to step down from Cabinet

Simon Coveney To Step Down From Cabinet
Simon Coveney has announced he will step down from Cabinet when the Dáil resumes next week.
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James Cox

Simon Coveney has announced he will step down from Cabinet when the Dáil resumes next week.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said he informed incoming taoiseach Simon Harris of his decision on Monday night.


He said he will continue to work as a "proud TD" for Cork South Central.

In a post on X, Mr Coveney wrote: "Last night I spoke to @SimonHarrisTD to inform him that I would not be making myself available to serve in cabinet when the Dáil resumes next week. I’ll continue to work as a proud TD for Cork South Central and will of course actively support the Government in the Dáil."

Mr Harris is set to be confirmed as the new taoiseach following a vote in the Dáil on Tuesday, April 9th.

He is considering the shape of his new Cabinet, and sources said he would seek assurances from ministers that they would run in the next general election.

This may indicate Mr Coveney intends to bring his political career to an end. However, when he was asked whether he would run again by Claire Byrne on RTÉ radio, he replied: “It’s not a yes, and it’s not a no."


Mr Coveney has been Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment since December 2022.

He served as tánaiste from late 2017 until June 2022. He is also Fine Gael deputy leader, but political sources have indicated Mr Harris has decided he will name Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys as the party's new number two.

Mr Coveney previously served as minister for agriculture and minister for defence.

He was minister for foreign affairs and trade for five years, and played a key role in Brexit negotiations.


Simon Harris (left) is hugged by Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney after being confirmed as the new leader of Fine Gael at the Midlands North-West European election selection convention, at the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone. Photo: Eamon Ward/PA Images

In the RTÉ interview, Mr Coveney said: ""I respect the fact he's made it clear [Simon Harris] that he wants to create a new-look Fine Gael in many ways, to promote new talent in the party.

"I know he was struggling with the decision in relation to who’d be in and who’d be out, and I think that for me being in the Cabinet, which has been an amazing experience for 13 years, I felt that the time was right both from his point of view and mine for him to give him the space to create new opportunity in the party."

He added: "One of the most difficult things for an incoming party leader and taoiseach is to form a team that can slot into Government well, particularly in an election year.


"I totally respect that that’s a really difficult decision for Simon, he’s going to be the youngest Taoiseach ever.

"He's a really talented person, I think he’ll want to bring forward new idea and energy in the party and I think he’ll want to bring a team with him to do that."

Mr Coveney said he did not know "whether he [Simon Harris] was going to ask me to be in cabinet as part of that team or not. I know he was weighing that up. And we spoke about that both last week and again this week. But I think it makes life easier for him. And I think it's also, you know, a recognition by me, too, that Fine Gael needs renewal".

“We're going to go into the next general election, hoping to be in government for a fourth term. And I think a party needs to find a way of renewing itself, refreshing itself, bringing forward new faces, new voices, new ideas. And, in many ways, when Leo Varadkar decided to step down a couple of weeks ago, he started that process. And obviously, my initial reaction to that was to steady the ship, if you like, to work within the party to make sure that we could manage the transition to a new leader quickly and efficiently and professionally, because the country needs that right now.

“But I've had a chance, really, to think about this from a personal point of view over Easter with my family. And for me, I've had an amazing 13 years, at the centre of government. And I think, we've got lots of ambitious talent in the party, and I'm going to now, make it a bit easier. It may have happened anyway, I don't know."

When asked about commentary, following the decision of Leo Varadkar, that he was being “sidelined”, Mr Coveney responded that when there was a change of leadership there would always be “jockeying for position” and people who were ambitious would want to create space for themselves.

“And they'll talk to journalists and create stories and narratives. You know, that's normal politics.”

The decision of Mr Varadkar could be positive for Fine Gael, Mr Coveney said.

I think everybody needs to reflect on their own position and how they fit into the future plans.

“It's a new opportunity. It's an exciting opportunity. I think we're a party, like any other that that needs to renew all the time. And, you know, it's the same in sport. It's the same in business. It's the same in politics. When you've been effectively at the helm for a long period of time, when there's significant change created, which is what Leo has done, then I think everybody needs to reflect on their own position and how they fit into the future plans.”

Simon Coveney said there was an opportunity for "renewal" within Fine Gael after Leo Varadkar's decision to step down. Photo: PA Images

Mr Coveney admitted that he experienced “an adrenaline rush” when Mr Varadkar made the announcement that he was resigning as Taoiseach.

“I got an I got an adrenaline rush, I think, like anybody would say when Leo decided to step down, and I think everybody within the party thought about what the future was going to hold. But, I made a decision with my family a number of years ago. I said the day after Leo stepped down, that I wouldn't be putting myself forward for the leadership of the party again. To be honest, that was a personal family decision. You know, I've got three daughters that are entering their teenage years. And for me, you know, I had to go with that.

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“I was very lucky to be the deputy leader of the party, to be tánaiste for a number of years, and to be right at the centre of decision-making in government for many years. And you know, that, for me, was the most rewarding job I could ever have had in politics. And so, I've no regrets on that. And, as I said, I'm at peace with that decision.”

Fine Gael needed to be a party for everybody, he added. “Unfortunately, we're seeing this right across Europe and right across the world, political leaders and parties are building support and loyalty by dividing societies. You know, we're seeing that in Ireland, too, where people are only claiming to represent certain communities and certain types of people.

“Fine Gael needs to be a party that unifies society, brings people together, and reaches out to everybody. And, you know, sometimes we haven't managed to do that as well as I'd like. But that is, in my view, what our party should be about.

"From new Irish migrants wanting to have a voice in Ireland, to farmers, to fishermen, to business people, to people who are on social welfare and are looking to gain social housing or people want to buy their first homes. All these people, in my view, are people that our party wants to connect with. And I certainly hope under Simon Harris's leadership will we'll be able to do that effectively.” - Additional reporting from Vivienne Clarke 

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