Coveney prepared to go before Oireachtas Committee about celebrations at department

Simon Coveney stated that he didn't launch an investigation in to the incident because there was an "acknowledgement of wrongdoing" and there was no repeat of the "dropping of the guard."
Coveney prepared to go before Oireachtas Committee about celebrations at department

Olivia Kelleher

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he is prepared to go before the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee if he is asked to answer further questions surrounding the champagne celebration his staff had on the day that Ireland won a United Nations Security Council seat.

In an interview on the RTÉ News at One, Mr Coveney stated that he was in the Department of the Taoiseach on the 17th of June 2020 when the celebrations occurred at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"Unfortunately in my department there were twenty or so officials who had been very much involved in that successful campaign," Mr Coveney said.

"And when the vote came through they celebrated in a way that they shouldn't have. They let their guard down.

"I have to say they are all mortified by what happened. It shouldn't have happened, and the Department has apologised for it."

Minister Coveney said he was back in his Department later that night, about 95 minutes after the vote, to finish his work of the day. He called in the UN section to thank the people who were still there for the work that they had done. He emphasised at that point "people were at work."

"When I arrived there certainly wasn't a party going on that is for sure. I was there for about ten minutes because I still had work to do.

"I was back up in my office after that because I was due to call the Norwegian foreign minister because they had also been elected on to the Security Council, and I was also involved in some briefings in relation to trying to agree a programme for Government."

Minister Coveney said that he had been informed by his team later on that evening that a photograph had been put up on Twitter in relation to celebrations that he hadn't realised had occurred.

He said his Secretary General acknowledged that the celebrations shouldn't have happened "and there was 'a momentary drop of our guard' is I think what he said."

'Acknowledgement of wrongdoing'

Mr Coveney stated that he didn't launch an investigation in to the incident because there was an "acknowledgement of wrongdoing" and there was no repeat of the "dropping of the guard."

He added that people like him and his department need to "lead by example" in relation to Covid and stresses it was something that participants felt embarrassed and ashamed about.

"It happened. It didn't happen since. And I think from that point of view the lesson was learned."

He refuted suggestions that there was one rule for the Department of Foreign Affairs and another rule for everyone else.

Minister Coveney added that he was happy to take any questions people would like answered about this issue as is his Secretary General.

"I will of course (go before the Oireachtas Committee). I will always go before the Oireactas Committee if they want to ask me about anything."

Meanwhile, a question was put to Minister Coveney about the ongoing garda investigation in to the Tánaiste regarding the alleged leaking of a GP contract.

He was asked if Mr Varadkar could become Taoiseach later this year if this investigation is continuing.

Minister Coveney said that he expects that the investigation will have concluded "long before the Tánaiste is due to become Taoiseach."

"The sooner the garda investigation draws to a conclusion the better. That is a matter for the guards and I don't think I should get involved."

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