Coveney becomes the Minister for Brexit

Coveney becomes the Minister for Brexit
New Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs and Brexit Simon Coveney receives his seal of office from President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain. Photo: Sam Boal/

CORK Minister Simon Coveney has been appointed as the new Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Cork South Central TD will now play a key role in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

He leaves behind the busy role of Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, with Dublin TD Eoghan Murphy, who oversaw much of Leo Varadkar's leadership campaign, promoted to the cabinet to take over the role.

Mr Murphy will oversee any potential changes to the local government structures in Cork over the coming years, while he has also been tasked with undertaking a review of the work done by his predecessor in terms of tackling the housing crisis.

Cork's only other representative in the cabinet remains Macroom TD Michael Creed, who retains his role as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Mr Creed remained silent during the leadership contest and is expected to work very closely with Mr Coveney in tackling the issue of Brexit in the coming years.

Paschal Donohue, another key member of the Varadkar team, has been appointed as finance minister, replacing Michael Noonan, who asked not to be considered for a role.

Former government chief whip Regina Doherty has been appointed Social Protection Minister, with Shane Ross (Transport), Katherine Zappone (Children) and Heather Humphreys (Arts) all remaining in their roles.

Michael Ring (Regional Development) is a new arrival in the cabinet, while Charlie Flanagan has been appointed as the country's new Justice Minister.

While the incoming Taoiseach used the opportunity to challenge his new cabinet to build a 'Republic of opportunity', opposition TDs were vocal in their criticism of the new appointments.

Mr Coveney, in particular, came in for significant criticism on the night.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin hit out at Mr Varadkar on the appointments, claiming that 'the public is tired of listening to spin.'

Mr Martin said that the issue of Brexit is set to be the most pressing challenge for the new cabinet and questioned the suitability of Mr Coveney for the new role.

"I congratulate my constituency colleague Simon Coveney on his transfer to foreign affairs. It is an excellent department - which had no obvious need for a change for leadership.

"In his campaign for leadership, [Mr Coveney] toured the country, constantly emphasising that he believes in finishing a job once he has taken it on.

"He criticised his new boss for running out of health after a year and a half. Today, he is leaving housing after a little more than a year and nothing about the housing agenda is near implemented. The problem is demonstrably worse."

Similarly, Solidarity TD and Cork North Central representative Mick Barry hit out at Mr Coveney's achievements in housing.

He said, "Deputy Coveney spoke about wanting to fight for the interests of the man in the sleeping bag. There are a lot more in sleeping bags now than when his government took the reigns."

Labour TD Seán Sherlock bemoaned the loss of Mr Coveney's expertise for Cork.

He said, "I fear the new brief may take him away from the Cork agenda and Munster agenda. Regional development is important and job creation beyond the Pale is important."

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