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Simon Coveney Alamy Stock Photo
stepping down

Simon Coveney to step down as minister when Dáil returns next week

Coveney told incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris of his decision last night.


MINISTER FOR ENTERPRISE and deputy leader of Fine Gael Simon Coveney has confirmed he will be stepping aside from Cabinet next week. 

In a statement on X this morning, Coveney said he spoke to incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris last night and informed him he would not be making himself 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,” he said. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne this morning, Coveney said he doesn’t know whether Harris was planning to ask him to be in the new Cabinet next week. 

However, he added that Harris has made it clear he wants to create a “new-look Fine Gael” and to promote new talent in the party.

“I know he was struggling with the decision in relation to who would be in and who’d be out [of Cabinet],” Coveney said. 

“I think that for me having been in the Cabinet, which has been an amazing experience for 13 years, which is a lot more than most politicians have the privilege of having in Cabinet, I felt that the time was right both from his point of view and from mine to give them, him, space to create a new opportunity in the party in government,” he said.

Coveney said Harris thanked him and “respected” the decision. 

“I think one of the most difficult things actually as an incoming party leader and incoming Taoiseach is to form a team that can slot into government well, particularly in an election year. I totally respect that that is a really difficult decision for Simon [Harris],” he said. 

Coveney noted that Harris is going to be the “youngest Taoiseach ever”, adding that “he’s a really talented person”.

“I think he would want to bring forward new ideas and new energy in the party,” he said. 

“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,” Coveney added. 

He said his initial reaction when Leo Varadkar announced he was stepping down as Taoiseach last month was to “steady the ship” and to “work within the party to make sure that we could manage the transition to a new leader quickly and efficiently and professionally”. 

However, he added that he had a chance over Easter to think about the situation from a “personal point of view” with his family.

“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, but I’ll make it a bit easier for Simon [Harris] to promote that talent now,” Coveney said. 

2WXH1FC Simon Coveney (left) and Simon Harris during a ceremony at the GPO in Dublin to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising on Sunday Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Speaking to reporters nine days ago, on 24 March, Coveney said he will be running in the next general election

When asked by Claire Byrne today whether he still intends to run again, he said: “To be honest, that’s really not for this week. I’m a committed TD for Cork South-Central, I intend on continuing to be that for the foreseeable future. 

“I’ll talk to my own team and my constituency and our councillors over the summer.” 

He added: “It’s not a year or it’s not a no, it’s me just being honest about it. I have to decide now what the future is for me and how I can contribute and that’s something I’m not going to rush.” 

Paying tribute to Coveney, Fine Gael TD and Minister of State Neale Richmond said it was a “pleasure to work alongside Simon during the Brexit years but particularly more recently in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment”. 

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has reacted by calling for a general election. 

“We need a fresh mandate and a new Government. We need a general election now,” Cullinane said. 

Coveney was first elected to the Dáil in 1998 as a Fine Gael candidate for Cork South-Central. 

He had sought to become leader of Fine Gael in 2017, but lost out to Varadkar in the leadership race. He was Tánaiste from November 2017 to June 2020. 

After Varadkar announced he was stepping down as Taoiseach last month, Coveney ruled himself out of going for leader again, stating: “I had my chance, I wasn’t successful the last time.”

Coveney has been Minister for Enterprise since December 2022. 

He was Minister for Foreign Affairs from June 2017 to December 2022. He also held the position of Minister for Defence between June 2020 and December 2022. 

Coveney previously held the positions of Minister for Housing and Minister for Agriculture. He was also a member of the European Parliament from July 2004 to June 2007. 

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