Simon Coveney TD. Photo: Cathal Noonan

Coveney steps down after 13 years as minister

There’s been widespread shock in Cork after Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney announced this week that he will step down from Cabinet when the Dáil resumes next week.

In a post on social media on Tuesday, the Cork TD said: “I'll continue to work as a proud TD for Cork South Central and will of course actively support the Government in the Dáil.”

It’s not clear whether he will run in the next election. Speaking on RTÉ's ‘Today with Claire Byrne’ on Tuesday, when asked whether he would stand in the next election, he said it was “not for this week”.

He said: “I’m a committed TD for Cork South-Central and will continue to be that for the foreseeable future. It's not a yes, or it’s not a no, it’s me just being honest about it. I have to decide what the future holds for me and how I can contribute and that’s something I’m not going to rush. It’s something, to be honest, I haven’t really thought about really because I’ve been so focused and busy with the various the jobs I’ve been lucky to have,” he added.

He has served as a senior minister for 13 years but said he would step down to help the party renew itself.

After first being elected to the Dáil in 1998 after a by-election caused by the death of his father, he was re-elected in 2002 but became an MEP from 2004-2007.

He returned to the Dáil in 2007 and was appointed as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine from 2011 until 2016.

Minister for Defence was added to his portfolio from 2014-2016 and he became Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government from 2016–2017. He also served as Tánaiste from 2017 to 2020. His period as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade from 2017-2022 was his most high profile ministerial period as he also had special responsibility for Brexit and successfully led Irish lobbying of the EU to ensure that the special position of Northern Ireland was a key part of its position. In 2017 he contested the leadership of the Fine Gael party after the resignation of Enda Kenny but lost out to Leo Varadkar. He did not contest leadership of the party after Leo Varadkar’s recent decision to step down.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Coveney in a social media post. “I was blessed to have him as my Deputy Leader, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was particularly so on Brexit and our successful campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council and our policies to increase the budget for international development and our diplomatic footprint. He’s one of the hardest working and most loyal people I have ever had the privilege of working with.”