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Simon Coveney orders investigation into department lockdown gathering

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has ordered an investigation into a gathering of his officials in June 2020.

Image: PA

THE MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs has ordered an investigation into a gathering of his officials in June 2020.

The news follows weeks of controversy over the gathering of Department of Foreign Affairs staff, held in the aftermath of Ireland winning a seat on the UN Security Council.

Simon Coveney has denied attending the bash at Iveagh House, which was held while strict lockdown measures were still in place.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Coveney had requested a report into the matter.

Coveney has faced repeated questions about the controversy, which was ignited after his secretary general tweeted a photo of the event.

The photo showed around 20 officials at the department drinking Moet & Chandon champagne, not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing measures.

It is expected that the report will be completed by the end of the month.

Earlier this week, Coveney said he would be happy to answer questions on the matter at the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs if requested.

He also admitted last week that he was made aware of the lockdown-breaking champagne party at his department on the night it happened.

In his first public comments on the controversy, the minister said he was made aware that his Secretary General had tweeted a photo of the event, but decided not to investigate.

“I was told by my team that there had been a photograph that was put up on Twitter by the Secretary General. That clearly was not a good idea, but it had happened,” he said.

“I was told, I think, later on that evening. To be honest with you, that wasn’t my focus that evening at all.

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“I didn’t know that there was an inappropriate gathering, albeit temporarily, after the vote at all. I didn’t know that had happened.

“I was told later on that a photograph was tweeted out and it was later on, I think late that evening after midnight, it was taken down.

“My Secretary General at the time acknowledged that it shouldn’t have happened and it was a momentary drop of our guard, I think was what he said.”

Despite being told about the party, Coveney said he did not decide to investigate the incident because he did not feel “there was a need for follow-up”.

With reporting from Jane Moore.

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