Simon Coveney (born 16 June 1972) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Tánaiste since November 2017, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Deputy Leader of Fine Gael since June 2017. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cork South-Central constituency since 1998. He previously served as Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government from 2016 to 2017, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine from 2011 to 2016 and Minister for Defence from 2014 to 2016. He served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South constituency from 2004 to 2007.
|Assumed office |
30 November 2017
|Preceded by||Frances Fitzgerald|
|Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade|
|Assumed office |
14 June 2017
|Preceded by||Charles Flanagan|
|Deputy Leader of Fine Gael|
|Assumed office |
13 June 2017
|Preceded by||James Reilly|
|Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government|
6 May 2016 – 14 June 2017
|Preceded by||Alan Kelly|
|Succeeded by||Eoghan Murphy|
|Minister for Defence|
11 July 2014 – 6 May 2016
|Preceded by||Enda Kenny (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Enda Kenny|
|Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine|
9 March 2011 – 6 May 2016
|Preceded by||Brendan Smith|
|Succeeded by||Michael Creed|
|Assumed office |
|Member of the European Parliament|
20 July 2004 – 24 June 2007
|Born||16 June 1972|
|Political party||Fine Gael|
Ruth Furney (m. 2008)
|Education||Clongowes Wood College|
Coveney was born in Cork and completed a BSc. in Agriculture from the Royal Agricultural College, having earlier studied at University College Cork. He spent several years working as an agriculture adviser and farm manager. He was elected to Dáil Éireann in a by-election, following the death of his father Hugh Coveney. After an initial period on the backbenches, Coveney was promoted to the Front Bench by Michael Noonan, as deputy chief whip, remaining in this position until a 2002 reshuffle, when he became Spokesperson on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources under Enda Kenny. A three-year period in the European Parliament was followed by a return to domestic politics in 2007, when he was appointed Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. A 2010 reshuffle of the Front Bench saw him take over as Spokesperson on Transport.
After the formation of the coalition government in March 2011, Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. A cabinet reshuffle in July 2014, saw him also take over the position of Minister for Defence. Following the formation of a Fine Gael minority government in May 2016, he was appointed Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. 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.
Born in Cork, Coveney was the son of 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. He was educated locally in Cork, before later attending Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare. He was expelled from the college in Transition Year and completed his secondary school education in Presentation Brothers College, Cork. 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.
His brother, Patrick, is chief executive of the food corporation Greencore.
Early years in Dáil Éireann: 1998–2004
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. Coveney was subsequently promoted to the position of 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
Coveney was elected to the European Parliament for the South constituency, in the 2004 European Parliament election. During his three years as a Member of the European Parliament (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
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.
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. Coveney was re-appointed to the front bench as Spokesperson on Transport.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: 2011–2016
On 9 March 2011, Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in the new Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition government.
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. While there, Coveney cut a ribbon at the opening of a supermarket in Oran.
Minister for Defence: 2014–2016
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. As Minister for Defence, Coveney launched the White Paper on Defence in August 2015.
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 indicating that they had never received such a call in 25 years.”
Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government: 2016–17
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.
Fine Gael leadership election: 2017
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.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade: 2017–present
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. 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.
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.
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.
- "Simon Coveney". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "Taoiseach announces new Cabinet". RTÉ News. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
- "Frances Fitzgerald is Tánaiste in new Cabinet". RTÉ News. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- "Miriam Meets...... Patrick and Simon Coveney, TD". RTÉ Radio 1. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
- "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.
- "Simon Coveney". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "Kenny survives confidence vote". RTÉ News. 17 June 2010. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
- "Bruton & Noonan return to Fine Gael frontbench". RTÉ News. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
- "Simon Coveney to attend EU agriculture talks". RTÉ News. 16 March 2011.
- McQuinn, Cormac; Sheehan, Aideen (9 November 2011). "Coveney stands by €26,000 spend on government jet". Irish Independent. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
- McQuinn, Cormac (8 November 2011). "Coveney 'cut ribbon' for shop on €26,000 jet trip to Algeria". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
- "The Government Minister, the supermarket-opening and the €26,000 bill". JOE. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
- "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.
- "Letter of resignation" (PDF). Static.rasset.ie. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- Minihan, Mary (27 August 2015). "Simon Coveney says Ireland has under-invested in defence". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
- "Coveney challenged pilot who refused to fly due to fog forecast". Irishtimes.ie. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Frances Fitzgerald is Tánaiste in new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
- "Varadkar appoints Coveney as deputy Fine Gael leader". RTÉ News. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- "Coveney appointed Irish foreign minister". BBC News. 15 June 2017.
- Council of the EU and Ministerial meetings European People’s Party (EPP).
- 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. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- "Everything you need to know about the new Tánaiste Simon Coveney". Irish Independent. 1 December 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
- "There will be no change to the Brexit backstop, says Coveney". Irish Times. 27 January 2019.
- Riegel, Ralph (3 March 2011). "Coveney thinking of cots, not cabinets, after daughter's birth". Irish Independent. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Simon Coveney.|
- Official website
- Simon Coveney's page on the Fine Gael website
- Coveney authored reports on Human Rights in the World
- European Parliament profile
| Fine Gael Teachta Dála
for Cork South-Central
|New constituency|| Member of the European Parliament
as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
| Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
| Minister for Defence
as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government
| Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
| Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
|Party political offices|
| Deputy Leader of Fine Gael