|Minister for Foreign Affairs|
14 June 2017
|Minister for Defence|
27 June 2020
11 July 2014 - 6 May 2016
|Deputy Leader of Fine Gael|
13 June 2017
30 November 2017 - 27 June 2020
|Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government|
6 May 2016 - 14 June 2017
|Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine|
9 March 2011 - 6 May 2016
|Member of the European Parliament|
20 July 2004 - 24 June 2007
|Born||16 June 1972|
|Political party||Fine Gael|
|Education||Clongowes Wood College|
Simon Coveney (born 16 June 1972) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence since June 2020 and Deputy Leader of Fine Gael since June 2017. He has served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cork South-Central constituency since 1998. He previously served as Tánaiste from 2017 to 2020, Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government from 2016 to 2017 and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine from 2011 to 2016. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South constituency from 2004 to 2007.
After the formation of the coalition government in March 2011, Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Following a cabinet reshuffle in July 2014, which 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. As part of the new government formed following the 2020 general election, Coveney was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence in the new cabinet.
Coveney was born in Cork in 1972 to 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. His uncle is Archbishop Patrick Coveney. Simon was educated locally in Cork, before later attending Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare. He was expelled from the college in Transition Year but ultimately was invited back to complete his full six years there. He repeated his Leaving Certificate in Bruce College in 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 EUR650,000 for charity. He spent several years working as an agriculture adviser and farm manager.
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.
Coveney was elected to the European Parliament for the South constituency, in the 2004 European Parliament election. During his three years as an 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.
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.
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 EUR26,000 to the Irish taxpayer when there were flights available for EUR16,331. While there, Coveney cut a ribbon at the opening of a supermarket in Oran.
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."
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.
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.
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.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Conveney headed up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of the Government of Ireland. On 10 March 2020, he upgraded travel advice recommending that Irish citizens do not travel to Italy. He added that people should think carefully about unnecessary public gatherings and urged the public to play their part and help themselves by following advice and doing practical things like sneezing and washing hands properly.
| Fine Gael Teachta Dála
for Cork South-Central
|New constituency|| Member of the European Parliament
| Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
| Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
| Minister for Foreign Affairs
| Minister for Defence|
|Party political offices|
| Deputy Leader of Fine Gael