Simon Coveney

Published on 19 May 2021 at 12:35

Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney is often portrayed as dithering and indecisive, unable to present a viable alternative to the status quo. This characterisation  stems largely from his attempt to win  the Fine Gael leadership in 2017. Widely regarded as a gentleman, loyal to the party and dedicated to Irish politics. Coveney operates  largely under the radar in Ireland, Europe and around the world in his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence.



Simon Coveney was born on the 16th June 1972 to a well established political family in Cork. He attended Clongowes Wood College in Kildare going on to study in University College Cork and Gurteen Agricultural College.



Coveney is married to Ruth, a former IDA executive and they live with their three daughters in Carrigaline Co. Cork.



Simon Coveney won his Dail seat in the Cork South Central constituency in 1998. The bye-election was called after the death of his father Hugh Coveney. Aged twenty-six he entered the Dail and worked his way up the political ladder.



He then moved to a European stage and was elected as MEP for the South Constituency in 2004. During this time he  fostered strong relationships across Europe with his work on the Foreign Affairs Committee. These relationships would become vital in later Brexit negotiations. 



Coveney returned to Ireland to run in the 2007 general election where he won a seat and returned to the Dail in the position of spokesperson for Energy Communications and Natural resource transferring to Transport after a front bench shuffle following the leadership heave against Enda Kenny.



Fine Gael entered government in 2011 and Coveney received his first ministerial role as Minister Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Since then he has maintained his seat at the cabinet table taking various ministries including Defence and Housing.



Coveney has also played a key role in referendums in Ireland, taking the role as director for elections in the Fiscal Stability Treaty referendum and the Marriage Equality referendum.  



For many years Coveney has been seen by many in the party and in the media as having leadership potential, but his own ambition did not become clear until 2017 after Enda Kenny’s resignation as leader.



A short,intense and often bruising campaign led to Leo Varadkar beginning to be elected as leader and Coveney subsequently appointed Deputy Leader. During the campaign Coveney was seen to represent traditional Fine Gael and won the support of the grassroots party membership but did not hold the support of the local representatives and the parliamentary party.




Coveney then took the role as Minister for Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Brexit and took the lead in the negotiations. His previous experience and established relationships in Europe proved to be very useful.His dedicated work on Brexit behind the scenes and at the forefront of negotiations has gained him respect in many quarters. 



Again Coveney has moved slowly upwards in influence and playing a lead role in securing Ireland a seat on the UN security Council. This has brought Ireland’s foreign affairs to an international stage. 



The recent events in Israel and Palestine have further highlighted Coveney's diplomatic work. He has expressed his disappointment that the security council could not agree to call for a ceasefire. Coveney has been outspoken about the need for greater engagement at a European and International level.



Coveney's strong stance on these issues and experience across a number of briefs is in contrast to much of his comedic characterization. It may be that this narrative of an indecisive and nervous politician has provided cover for him to build his portfolio for the future.

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