Simon Coveney would like to see Cork minister appointed in incoming Taoiseach’s reshuffle

Departing minister says decision not to put his name forward for Cabinet ‘wasn’t about being shafted’

Departing Cabinet minister Simon Coveney has said he would like to see a Cork minister in incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris’s reshuffle.

Mr Coveney’s decision not to put his name forward for Cabinet means Fine Gael will not have any ministers in the county unless Mr Harris appoints a Cork TD.

Mr Coveney said if Mr Harris selects a Cork politician “it might be in the junior minister ranks”.

The outgoing Minister for Enterprise made the remarks at a press conference as Fine Gael began its ardfheis in Galway.


There has been speculation that Cork North-Central TD Colm Burke will become a Minister of State as the only other Fine Gael TD in the county that has not said they will be stepping down at the next election.

Mr Coveney has not confirmed if he will seek re-election and said he will think about it over the summer.

He denied he made his decision not to put his name forward for Cabinet in case he was dropped by Mr Harris when asked if he had been “shafted” by the new Fine Gael leader.

Mr Coveney said there are “lots of theories” about his decision but he insisted he decided not to put his name forward to help Fine Gael “look and feel fresh” in advance of upcoming elections.

He added: “I decided that I’d make life a little bit easier for Simon. I don’t know whether I would have been in the Cabinet next week. I did speak to Simon about it a number of times.

“You’d have to ask him what his view is on that. But honestly, my decision wasn’t about being shafted or anything like that.”

He said it was a “deeper one”, that he had been 26 years in politics and “I felt it was time to give somebody else an opportunity”.

Mr Coveney is Fine Gael’s director of elections for the upcoming European Elections.

The party is running five candidates in a bid to retain the seats it holds.

They are Nina Carberry, a TV star and former jockey, and sitting MEP Maria Walsh in Midlands Northwest; Senator Regina Doherty, a former minister, in Dublin; and another sitting MEP, Seán Kelly, and businessman John Mullins in Ireland South.

Mr Coveney said he is not running for Europe himself.

Asked where the ambition was in simply seeking to retain the seats Fine Gael holds Mr Coveney said: “I think we have to be realistic about how we approach these elections.

“If we’re going to win five I think the best strategy is to have five strong candidates.”

Mr Coveney and Fine Gael’s candidates all insisted they were getting a positive reaction on the doors in the election campaign so far.

Mr Kelly said the environment in the 2014 elections “was toxic” but he said there was absolutely no “toxicity” to Fine Gael on the doorsteps on this occasion because “we have delivered in this economy”.

Ms Doherty said that if politicians lived exclusively on social media “you would never go out and knock on a door”.

But she said that people she canvassed on the doorstep “have concerns and issues, talk to you in a normal way, not in a fighting bitchy way that you know, you can’t do on social media”.

On the Gaza war, Mr Coveney said: “I think we need to say clearly that there is no future for Hamas in terms of Palestinian governance.

“But having said all of that, we also need to hold Israel to account for its ferocious response to that terrorist attack and the consequences for so many innocent people in Gaza.

“In simple terms, international law has to protect Palestinian children, just as it has to protect Israeli children. And I think the Government has been very consistent on that, at least the Irish Government has.”

In advance of the appointment of a new European Commission later this year he again staunchly defended EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and said she had given “extraordinary leadership to the European Union at a time of incredible change and pressure”.

He did not remember a leader within the European Commission who had given as much leadership from the front on Covid and on Brexit.

“It’s probably the first time ever in British Irish history, that actually in terms of international decision making, Ireland’s priorities were prioritised over Britain,” he said.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times