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Leo Varadkar intervened to ensure Simon Coveney kept State car

Labour leader Alan Kelly attacked the government over the issue in the Dáil today.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney retained a garda driver and State car, even after vacating the office of tánaiste.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney retained a garda driver and State car, even after vacating the office of tánaiste.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

FORMER TAOISEACH LEO Varadkar intervened to ask if then-Tanáiste Simon Coveney could keep his State car. 

A government spokesperson said that the “call from the Secretary General in the Taoiseach’s Department to the Secretary general in the Department of Justice was made at the request of the previous Taoiseach.”

The issue was raised in the Dáil today by Labour leader Alan Kelly, who accused the government of spending €200,000 on a State car for Coveney, who remains Minister for Foreign Affairs but is no longer tánaiste.  

He said that Coveney was using the State car “without permission”, citing the fact that no Cabinet decision was made on the issue. 

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the the “communication happened before I became Taoiseach”. 

“The Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality received a query from the Secretary to the Government on Sunday, 28 June as to whether it was appropriate, on security grounds, for the Minister, Deputy Coveney to retain his Garda driver. The security assessment is that it is important,” Martin said. 

“I am not getting involved in any security appraisal,” he added. 

In 2011, the government announced that only the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice would be granted access to a State car with a full-time garda driver. 

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Earlier this month, Kelly hit out at the decision over the car. In an interview the TheJournal.ie, Kelly said Coveney looking for a car “is embarrassing”.

“In the middle of a pandemic it’s bloody well embarrassing. He should be embarrassed and ashamed.. it’s a joke. And in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis,” he said.

With reporting from Christina Finn

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