Tag Archives: Simon Coveney

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney answered a question from Rise TD Paul Murphy.

Mr Murphy asked him about the nature of his reported communications with Keeling’s before seasonal workers arrived in Ireland.

Mr Coveney said, after speaking about Brexit…

“In relation to the Keeling’s issue, which has nothing to do with Brexit. My office was contacted by Keeling’s, merely to ask whether or not the airports were going to close or not.

That was the nature of the conversation and we confirmed that they would not be closing.

And the advice was given to consult with the Department of Health to ensure that it was fully understood, that guidelines that were required in the context of essential workers being brought into the country.”

Previously: Fruit Of The Loon


This morning.

At a press briefing in Government Buildings, Tánaiste Simon Coveney was asked how long the “cocooning” restriction will continue.

He said:

“As you know the Government takes its advice from the chief medical officer [Tony Holohan] and his team and the national public health emergency team but I do think people do need to realise that these restrictions may go on for some time.

“I think it’s wrong to put a timeline on it. We’ve set an initial period [until Easter] but I think that it may well be that we will need to go beyond that initial guideline but again that will be a decision taken with the best public health advice that we can get.”

The “cocooning” phase affects people over 70 and those who are medically vulnerable.

They are not allowed to leave their homes and are to have no interaction or minimal interaction with other people. It’s currently scheduled to remain in place until Easter Sunday, April 12.

Previously: “There’s No Fate But What We Make For Ourselves”


From top: Dublin Airport; Tánaiste Simon Coveney

This morning.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, from RTÉ’s studio in Cork, spoke to Audrey Carville, possibly working from home, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

During the interview Mr Coveney warned people to “be careful with where you get your news from”.

They had this exchange:

Simon Coveney: “One of the challenges here for the public is, in some ways, there’s information overload. You know, if you look at yesterday evening alone, we had Regina Doherty outlining a refund scheme for employers effectively to try maintain consistency of income, as people move on to social welfare.

“We had me outlining, last night, how we’re going to get 20,000 people home from Spain who are on their holidays today before midnight on Thursday. We had Simon Harris outlining why, having spoken to vintners why we’re going to close 7,000 pubs from today with 50,000 people losing their jobs as a result of that, albeit hopefully on a temporary basis.

“So we are living through extraordinary times. And what I would say to people is: be careful with where you get your news from. Because unfortunately there are people spreading false rumours. The number of people who called me last night to ask whether the country was going to go into lockdown at 11am this morning because of rumours that were spread on social media deliberately, I might add, by people trying to cause panic.

“People need to think carefully about how and where they get information and advice in times like we are now living in.”

Audrey Carville: “Well, let’s inform them then, this morning. Because it is that uncertainty of what is to come which is so hard for many of us to deal with. What can you tell us this morning about any plans you have, at this point, to escalate restrictions?

Coveney: “Well, what I’ll say is that, you know, we will issue a very clear statement after the Cabinet sub-committee meeting today. If there are further decisions, on top of the decisions that have happened over the weekend, we will announce those. And we’ll do it, as I say, on the back of the advice of the chief medical officer and his public health team which is what we’ve done at every step of the, every stage of this process so far.

“But I don’t think you’re going to see any dramatic new decisions being made today. I think you’ll see a refining of existing decisions, trying to reassure and inform people who may be losing their jobs today, employers who are asking to help us with that.

“Again, to try to ensure consistency of income with a refund scheme that can allow employers essentially to continue to pay employees, even if they’re not coming to work for a period that can ensure that those employees continue to maintain a relationship with their employer and also to maintain income and ensure that both banks and the Government will ensure that, through a refund scheme and through increased flexibility and overdraft facilities that those kind of practical arrangements can happen.

“On the travel side, many people will have family in Spain on the Canary Islands or mainland Spain at the moment. We have an agreement with the Spanish government and with Aer Lingus and Ryanair, who have been fantastic over the last 24 hours, to continue a schedule of flights to get everybody who wants to come home home before late Thursday evening and I would encourage people to do that because the reality of what we’re seeing at the moment, in terms of aviation across the European Union, I don’t think there is any certainty beyond Thursday or Friday of this week, in terms of where planes will and won’t be flying, given the responses of individual countries right now.

“So, like with everything, we will try to keep the public as informed as we can and when there are actions the public needs to take, we will try to give clear instruction to help them make informed decisions.”

Carville: “And those people who you will attempt to bring home, hopefully everyone who wants to come home will get home before this Thursday night, what do they do when they get home? Do they have to self-isolate for 14 days?”

Coveney: “Yes, so when they come home to the airport, they will be met by health officials that will give them advice and what we’ve been saying is that for people coming from Italy or from Spain, where we have clear travel advice, in terms of saying non-essential travel, because of the pace of the spread of the virus in both of those countries, when people come home from those countries, they will be advised to restrict their movements and they’ll get very clear advice when they land in the airport.”

Carville:Is it still safe to travel to the UK?

Coveney:Yes, I think it is but I think people should be cautious about travelling at all, right now. But there’s no reason to believe that the risk of contracting the virus is any higher in the UK than it is in Ireland. That’s the public advice that we have and I do want to say that we are not planning to close our airports, we are not planning to shut down flights between Ireland and the UK. That is not in the plan, despite what some people may have read on social media, on the back of false rumours.”

Coveney: “Ok, very good to talk to you…”

Listen back in full here




A Cabinet Subcommittee meeting yesterday on Covid-19 with politicians and officials including Tanaiste Simon Coveney (left)

This morning.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney spoke to Dr Gavin Jennings on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the coronavirus.

He spoke about the Department of Foreign Affairs advising Irish people not to travel to anywhere in Italy while conceding that Ireland cannot “control” people travelling from Italy to Ireland.

They later discussed the immediate figure of public gatherings in Ireland with Mr Coveney indicating that fresh advice on this is imminent.

From the interview…

Jennings: “You announced packages yesterday of nearly €2.5billion to help people to stay at home. How soon will it be before more people are asked to stay at home?”

Coveney: “Well as the Taoiseach outlined yesterday, and I think [Health Minister] Simon Harris has been doing it as well, I mean there are, there are different phases here in terms of how you respond to something like this. We are currently in the initial, what’s called, ‘containment phase’.

“In other words, anybody who tests positive, we want to establish who they are, where they’ve come from and the likely source of infection. And so the vast majority of the 24 people who’ve tested positive in Ireland so far have come form Northern Italy and they’ve brought it home with them.

“And of course then our public health team have followed all of the contacts that those people have had to try to make sure that we follow any others who may have been exposed to that virus.

“That’s been the focus so far which is really about containment and minimising the number of people who are exposed to the virus. But I think it is inevitable that we will move on to what’s called the ‘delay phase’ which is essentially trying to stop the spread of a virus in a population that has no immunity and recognising the reality that we effectively have no vaccine and no treatment for this virus right now.

“And therefore the only way that we have of effectively limiting the numbers of people who contract the virus is through old public communication and of course providing comprehensive and good healthcare to people who have symptoms.”

Jennings: “At what point will that happen? At what point will we move on to a ‘delay or mitigating phase’ and that more people are asked to stay away from each other?”

Coveney: “Well, I mean, in some ways, that’s already starting. I mean we’ve, we cancelled, or postponed at least, a large rugby fixture, we’re also cancelling, essentially, St Patrick’s Day parades across the country. And if our public health team make further recommendations in relation to public gatherings, we will follow that advice and I understand that Tony Holohan, who is the chief medical officer and his team will be meeting today at the National Public Health Emergency Team and they will be looking to, to give clearer and more detailed guidelines around public gatherings. So that we can give people and organisations more direct advice on that, sooner rather than later.”

Jennings: “It looks that there are kind of two choices. Lock everything down before thousands become infected or lock everything down after thousands become infected, like what’s happened in Italy. Why are we waiting to make more moves here?”

Coveney: “Well, we are, I think trying to provide responses that are proportionate. So you know if you shut a country down without good reason and evidence to back that up, then I think you can cause significant damage to people’s quality of life also. And so what we’re trying to do is follow the public health advice that is appropriate, given the level of threat at any given time.

“And, you know, I’m a politician, a policymaker, we need to listen to experts in terms of the recommendations and the advice that they give. And I think that we need to follow that. This response needs to be health-driven and that is what we’re doing, rather than politicians going off on solo runs and doing things that aren’t recommended.

“We’re very much working with our public health team, with the HSE and with the chief medical officer. Meetings are happening literally every day. Advice and discussions are happening at a European level and at a national level and as you saw yesterday, the Government will respond comprehensively on the back of public health advice.”

Jennings: “You were on television last night [Claire Byrne Live], taking questions for some time and beside you was a doctor and an expert academic, talking about increasing social distancing. They were talking about measures like closing schools, universities, pubs, restaurants and more.

“Now you got briefings yesterday from health experts, privately, can you just explain to us what they’re thinking is as to what point more social distancing, more restrictions will be introduced. We’ve what 24 cases in this State, 36 cases on the island of Ireland. At what point will more measures be introduced?”

Coveney: “I mean I think the direct answer to that question is when it will be effective to do that. And I think it’s important to say that the Government isn’t ruling out any course of action.

“If this virus takes hold and starts to spread in clusters in different parts of the country, we will need to respond very firmly to that. To try to delay the spread of the virus as best we can. I mean if you look at, and I’m learning about this like everybody else is, but from what I’m told, if you look at how a virus like this spreads in a population, the challenge for us is to slow down the spread of that infection, to give health authorities the time and the space to be able to respond to that comprehensively and to give populations also the time to actually understand how they can protect themselves and their families.

“So instead of this being a dramatic peak where very large numbers of people are impacted by the virus in a very short period of time, we’re trying to actually spread out that curve over a period of time, so that we can respond in the appropriate way to protect, most importantly, vulnerable citizens from this because don’t forget the vast majority of people who will be impacted by this virus will get through it.

“They will have relatively mild impacts on their health but maybe up to 20 per cent of people who contract the virus will have a significant health impact and of course a small percentage, for a small percentage, it could be fatal.

“And if you have very large numbers in the population impacted, well then even small percentages can mean thousands of people losing their lives. So this is something we are monitoring on a daily basis and you know as the Taoiseach said yesterday, really the challenge for the country here, potentially, if the spread of this virus happens on a worst-case scenario basis, this is a challenge that is totally unprecedented…”

Jennings: “Yes.”

Coveney: “…in Irish modern history.”

Jennings: “If the challenge is that big though why not move earlier? If the Taoiseach says almost 60% of people could become infected, what grounds are there not to move to delay with mitigating measures now?”

Coveney: “Well… I think that what we’re trying to do here is to respond to a crisis as it develops. And if you use all your ammunition on day one and then effectively…”

Jennings: “Do you not want to move before it develops?”

Coveney: “Yes, we are and we are doing that. That’s why we have already cancelled very big events, that’s why we have taken unprecedented action in relation to travel advice. That’s why we are preparing now, in our health service, to add significant bed numbers to decant people from hospital who don’t need to be there. So that we create space to try to deal with a problem that could become much, much worse, very, very quickly. So a lot is happening. And of course the advice will be upgraded on a daily basis.

“You know the special Cabinet committee on Covid-19 is meeting again on Friday, again on Monday after that. The national public health emergency team is meeting again today. And of course will update the Government, in relation to advise.

“So you may find that the Government moves to do a lot more very quickly but I think we need to do that on the basis of good, public health advice rather than on the back of political pressure.”

Jennings: “But there may be people this morning, listening, minister, who may decide to move before Government advice, before pubic health advice. People who are organising events, people who are organising matches, people who are organising parties, public gatherings who will think ‘will I wait for the advice from Government’ or is the responsible thing for me to do now, to keep people away from each other where possible?”

Coveney: “Well I think, as the Taoiseach said yesterday, I think we should all think carefully about unnecessary public gatherings and I think you will get advice shortly, if not even this evening, but certainly in the next few days on public gatherings and numbers and proximity and so on.

“But we want to make sure that advice is accurate and based on as sound, on evidence-based as we can provide it. So what I would say to people is if you are organising seminars, if you’re bringing people together for whatever reason, whether it’s a concert, whether it’s a sporting fixture, whatever it is, keep a close eye on the HSE website and we will be proving updated information on public gatherings shortly.”

Listen back in full here.



Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar during their leadership contest in May 2017

This morning.

Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One.

During their discussion, Mr O’Rourke asked Mr Coveney about Leo Varadkar’s leadership of Fine Gael following the general election result.

They had this exchange:

Seán O’Rourke: “What about the Fine Gael leadership at this time?”

Simon Coveney: “I don’t think there’s any, ehhm, moves, ehhh, ehh, to change leader in Fine Gael. I don’t think there’s any appetite for that. There’s a lot of trust in Leo Varadkar within Fine Gael. He’s only been a leader for two-and-a-half years or so.

“I think he’s only getting started. So I think Fine Gael will look at this election result, we’ll try to learn from it.

“Clearly we’ve made some mistakes and the public expressed an anger about that during this election and we need to be both realistic and humble in relation to the mistakes that we’ve made and learn from them and come back and respond to that as a political party that is, you know, deeply committed to everybody in Irish society, not just the people who vote for us but the people who voted for Sinn Féin and others as well. And we’ll do that.”

Listen back in full here.

Previously: Leoseach

Proposed deal to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland; a letter from Northern Secretary Julian Smith to the speaker of the Stormont Assembly asking him to arrange an “urgent meeting” of the Northern Ireland Assembly tomorrow; Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Mr Smith address journalists outside Stormont in Belfast tonight


In Belfast.

RTÉ’s Northern Correspondent Vincent Kearney tweetz:

“BREAKING: Irish + British governments Simon Coveney and Julian Smith say they believe they have basis for agreement to restore Stormont Assembly. Now up to Northern Ireland’s five main parties to say whether they back proposed deal.”

The 62-page proposed deal, entitled New Decade, New Approach, can be downloaded in full here.

NI proposals ‘provide basis’ for agreement – Coveney (RTÉ)

From top: *Sam eating from a cardboard sheet on Grafton Street on Tuesday night; Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty; Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil today

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions in Dáil Éireann.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty raised the picture of a five-year-old boy *Sam (not his real name) eating a pasta dinner given to him by a homeless charity while kneeling on a piece of cardboard on Grafton Street in Dublin on Tuesday night.

Just over two weeks ago, the most recent figures from the Department of Housing showed there were 10,345 people (6,490 adults and 3,848 children) living in emergency accommodation in the final week of August.

The figure represent a decrease of seven adults but an increase of 70 children compared to the figures for the final week of July. 

This afternoon, Mr Doherty addressed Tánaiste Simon Coveney when he said:

“The photograph showed a five-year-old boy eating his dinner off a sheet of cardboard on the ground in this city.

“Sam is the boy in that photograph, he’s five years old. He goes to school like any other child but Sam is homeless.

“Sam and his mum live in emergency accommodation like thousands of other families in this state.

“The Homeless Street Café, the homeless group, who met Sam on Tuesday night, made clear that his mother is trying her best to provide nutritious home-cooked meals for her children

“But, like so many parents of the homeless children of this state, they live in emergency accommodation that strictly forbids them from cooking meals for their children.

“That is Sam’s life, Tánaiste. Without a home, without the comfort and security which should be a right for every children [sic] in this State.

“That’s the life of nearly 4,000 children like Sam that have been condemned to this type of nightmare.

“There is only one place our children should be on a Tuesday night. And that is safely tucked up in their beds, in their home, with their families.

“The moral stain of child homelessness in Ireland is creating a lost generation. Children who are having their childhood stolen from them, right before our eyes.

“Stunting their development, harming their education, exposing them to hardships that no child deserves and that no society should accept.

“Behind the statistics, Tánaiste, the Minister for Housing tries to bamboozle the public with, there is a stark and dark reality of our housing crisis.

“A crisis that your government has manufactured, a crisis that many are profiting from, from the suffering of others.

“We’ve over 10,000 people recorded as homeless at the end of August of this year.

“That’s the seventh month in a row where we have those figures recorded – a 365 per cent increase during a five-year period of unending, uninterrupted, economic growth.

“And these figures don’t even provide the full picture, Tánaiste, they don’t include the women and children living in domestic violence shelters, funded by Tusla, they don’t include the adults and children living in hostels that aren’t funded by Government departments.

“And they don’t include those still living in Direct Provision, despite having secured their leave to remain.

“This is the Republic that you and your government are building. These are the parents and children you’re failing, children like Sam.

“This is not a republic of opportunity that cherishes all of the children of the nation equally.

“It is a national shame.”

More to follow.

Earlier: Dear Sam

Yesterday: ‘Sam’

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary; Tánaiste Simon Coveney

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary asked Tánaiste Simon Coveney about the Brexit deal agreed between the UK and the EU this morning – but rejected by the DUP.

He specifically asked if Mr Coveney could confirm the deal will ensure there are no border or customs checks on the island of Ireland.

He also asked if he could confirm the Good Friday Agreement is “intact” by way of this deal.

And he asked if members of the Irish government – Mr Coveney himself, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar or any of their officials – “engaged” with members of the Democratic Unionist Party in “recent days” to “see if the Irish Government can assuage their concerns, whatever they are, around this deal”.

Mr Coveney said he urged caution and while there is an agreement between UK and Brussels, “that isn’t the end of the process”.

But he said the deal recognises “all of the issues we have been raising over the past three years”.

He said it will “protect” the people on the island of Ireland, and peace and trade on the island.

He added:

“It will ensure that there are no checks, whether they be sanitary and phytosanitary, whether they regulatory cheeks, whether they be live animals, or indeed whether they be customs checks in the context of goods travelling and being traded north and south, and south and north. I think that is a very significant achievement.”

He also said:

“The bit that has changed in the Withdrawal Agreement relates to Ireland. Much of the Irish protocol remains the same on issues like the CTA and so on. But the provisions which were previously referred to as the backstop have changed.

“But we have always said that if we can replace the backstop with something else that does the same job on the key issues that I outlined earlier in terms of protecting the peace process preventing a hard border and protecting  Ireland’s place in the EU single market and customs union, if we can achieve that, then we will always look favourably on a new approach.

“As long as the outcomes were guaranteed and I believe they are. And that is why I think this is a deal that is worth supporting because it protects core Irish interests.”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Earlier: Done Deal

Earlier today.

In the Dáil.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney (top) responds to the UK’s latest Brexit proposal.

UK, not EU, needs to do further work on Brexit offer: Brussels (RTE)




On Virgin Media One’s The Tonight Show with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates:

Tánaiste Simon Coveney reacts to tonight’s breaking Brexit proposals (video 1):

“We certainly haven’t seen any proposals yet. I read on various social media channels that Prime Minister Johnson is going to bring forward proposals tomorrow. Some are even saying that he’s been briefing certain EU capitals in relation to these ideas since Tuesday, we haven’t seen anything. If the reports we are reading are true it doesn’t look like the basis of an agreement, that’s for sure”.

Mr Coveney added (video 2):

“The rumour mill this evening is suggesting that there would be a four year time limit, and then a choice to be made by Northern Ireland at the end of that period. But again that’s all speculation, but I mean our position has been very clear on a time limited backstop, if it’s time limited and you can’t answer the question what happens at the end of that time period, then it’s not a backstop at all.

Earlier: Wednesday’s Papers

We Expect The British Government To Honour That Commitment’

Border, Border

Gropes Of Wrath

Boris Johnson: UK offering EU ‘very constructive’ Brexit proposals (BBC)

Thanks Nadine Maloney and Richard Waters