Tag Archives: Simon Coveney

Tánaiste Simon Coveney


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Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil

This afternoon.

Brexit was raised during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he will be bringing two Brexit papers to Cabinet this evening when it meets at 8.30pm.

He said the Brexit negotiations have “intensified significantly” in recent days and those will continue.

He said:

Ireland is not going to allow a situation where the UK, leaving the European Union without a deal, drags Ireland out of the single market with it.

“We cannot allow that situation. And what I mean by that is, the response being a checks in EU ports, on all Irish products. That is not a runner and will cause significant damage to our economy so we will not allow it.

“So what we need to do, and what we are doing now, is we have intensified our discussions with the European Commission on how we respond to that dual responsibility of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process and the relations on this island as best we can.

“While at the same time, reassuring that we can reassure other EU countries that Ireland is protecting the integrity of the single market that we all share.”

“….We have to find a way of ensuring, as I say, that we protect the single market’s integrity but that we avoid physical border infrastructure on the border.

“And that is something that we do not have an agreed plan on. But we are working this week and presumably into next week on, if we need to, in the context of an no-deal Brexit.”

Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary told Mr Coveney that every party in the Dáil wants to work with him in preparation of a no-deal Brexit.

He said members of the Dail should be allowed to see, or have some knowledge of, the Government’s “plan”.

He added: “Hope is no longer a strategy. You’ve hoped for a long, long time but it seems, whether by accident or design, we’re going towards a hard Brexit.”

During his response, Mr Coveney said:

“The Government isn’t hiding anything from anybody. There isn’t a plan. What we are doing is we are working out a plan with the European Commission because it involves both the European Commission and the Irish Government to actually try to ensure that we fulfil our dual responsibilities as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and as a committed member of the European Union and a single market and customs union.”

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From top: Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary; Tánaiste Simon Coveney

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fail’s deputy leader Dara Calleary raised the latest homelessness figures with the Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

During his contribution, Mr Calleary mentioned an interview the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s gave RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning in which Mr Murphy accused journalist Bryan Dobson of speaking from an “ideological” position when the broadcaster asked the politician about the Government’s record on housing and homelessness.

Mr Calleary asked Mr Coveney to “finally ‘fess up” and admit the Government’s housing plan Rebuilding Ireland – launched when Mr Coveney was Minister for Housing in 2016 – is not working.

Mr Coveney said nobody is denying the facts and the figures of homelessness in Ireland, and the emotion attached to the same, before going on to cite Rebuilding Ireland figures.

He then said:

“The truth is, deputy, we are listening to others in this house and, indeed, experts outside it. Rebuilding Ireland was always a policy initiative that would change, depending on where the pressures and demands were coming from and that is what it’s doing.

“But if you look at the number of people that we are taking out of homeless right now, it’s a higher figure than ever before.

“If you look at the number of social houses that are being delivered, it’s higher than at any point in the last decade.

The truth is there are more families and individuals coming into homelessness now than I think anyone in this house predicted.”

Mr Calleary told Mr Coveney his response was the same response he gave in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Mr Coveney said there is work to be done but the Government has “changed the housing market in Ireland” with rent pressure zones and increasing the powers of the Residential Tenancies Board.

He also said Rebuilding Ireland was a five-year housing plan and the Government is only three years into it.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty also raised the homelessness figures and also raised Minister Murphy’s interview on Morning Ireland.

He called on the Government to support a bill proposed by Sinn Fein TD Eoin O’Broin – aimed at preventing buy-to-let landlords from evicting tenants.

Mr Coveney said:

The truth is that this State is not the only one facing this challenge. Last year, almost 20,000 households approached housing bodies in Northern Ireland because they consider themselves homeless… and solutions have to be found there as well as here. This is a challenge that many countries are facing.”

Mr Coveney also insisted Mr O Broin’s bill will not work “legally or in practical terms”.

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This afternoon.


This afternoon.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney took Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May taking her Brexit withdrawal deal back to parliament, almost two months after it suffered the largest ever House of Commons defeat…


In the last 30 minutes…

The DUP has released a statement, saying:

“The Prime Minister set out a clear objective for legally binding change which would command a majority in the House of Commmons in line with the Brady amendment.

“We recognise that the Prime Minister has made limited progress in her discussions with the European Union. However, in our view, sufficient progress has not been achieved at this time.

“Having carefully considered the published material as well as measuring what has been achieved against our own fundamentalists, namely the impact of the backstop on the constitutional and economic integrity of the Union of the United Kingdom, it is clear that the risks remain that the UK would be unable to lawfully exit the backstop were it to be activated.

“The Attorney General’s legal advice is clear in his last paragraph: ‘The legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either part, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no international lawful means of exiting the protocol’s arrangements, save by arrangement’.

“We want to see a deal with works for every part of the United Kingdom. We will support the right deal with respects the referendum result and Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“The European Union has been intransigent. It is possible to reach a sensible deal which worlds for the United Kingdom and the European Union but it will require all sides to be reasonable and in deal-making mode.”

Documents don’t change Withdrawal Agreement (RTE)

Watch Dáil proceedings live here



Brexit: Something has changed but is it enough? (BBC)

Brexit: Blow to Theresa May’s deal as British AG Cox says legal risk remains (The Irish Times)

Tánaiste & Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney  and Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee updating the media this morning on legislation which will ‘protect ‘Ireland in the case of a no deal Brexit.

This morning.

Government Buildings.

“A disorderly Brexit will be a lose, lose, lose for the UK, for Europe and for Ireland. We cannot offset all the damage it will do, but we are doing everything we can.”

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney

Save yourselves.

*grabs iodine tablets*

Tánaiste: No-deal Brexit a ‘lose, lose, lose’ scenario (RTÉ)


From top: Today’s Irish Examiner, Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary, Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions, which were taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary raised the nurses’ strike and asked what the Government has done in recent days to off-set the further strikes which are planned to take place next Tuesday and Thursday and in later weeks.

Mr Coveney repeated much of what the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said during Leaders’ Questions the past two days – namely that the Government “understands the resolve” of the nurses but the Government cannot give pay increases to one section of workers within the public sector pay service agreement without expecting another section to also seek pay increases.

He said the Government wants the State’s industrial relations mechanisms, chiefly the Labour Court, to work with nursing unions to come up with recommendations and he called on nursing unions to “fulfil their obligations” too.

He also noted the “extraordinary disruption” the strike action caused yesterday but thanked the nurses for their “huge cooperation” in providing essential services.

Mr Calleary asked Mr Coveney about an article on the front page of today’s Irish Examiner which claims that the nurses on strike “could see salary rises and pension increases under the existing pay deal frozen and blocked if they don’t call off their all-out strike”.

The article states:

“…Health Minister Simon Harris and a spokesperson for Finance Minster Pashcal Donohoe confirmed officials will “legally consider” imposing penalties in what will be seen as a hardline response to the industrial action.”

Mr Calleary asked Mr Coveney if he could confirm the contents of the article. He also put it to Mr Coveney that he “allowed” the story to be published.

Mr Coveney said the Government “doesn’t give permission to any paper” to print what they wish and that decision is taken by newspapers and their editors.

Mr Coveney confirmed the Government is “taking legal advice…consistent with the pay agreement that everybody signed up to with their eyes open”.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Ministers may block nurses’ pay incentives (Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Catherine Shanahan, Evelyn Ring and Juno McEnroe)


Brexit: No change to backstop, Ireland insists (BBC)

From top: Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty; Labour leader Brendan Howlin; Tánaiste Simon Coveney

In the past 24 hours.

Several matters have emerged concerning the CervicalCheck programme.

A backlog in tests – following on from an extra 84,000 women coming forward for tests last year in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal in April 2018, and Minster for Health Simon Harris announcing the provision of free repeat smear tests – has led to 1,000 women having to have repeat tests because the backlog caused their initial tests to expire and become invalid.

The figure of 1,000 emerged last night after Fianna Fáil TD Micheál Martin raised the matter in the Dáil yesterday.

It’s now the case that women have to wait, on average, 22 weeks to get the result of a CervicalCheck smear, as opposed to the usual two to four weeks.


It’s emerged some 6,000 women will be written to next week and advised to return to their GPs for repeat smear tests.

This is in relation to a cohort of women who would have initially tested positive for low-grade abnormalities and who would have then been advised to have an additional HPV test within 30 days of the initial smear test – but their additional smear test was tested for the HPV virus beyond the 30-day limit.

[The practice of being advised to have an additional HPV test, on foot of a test showing up low-grade abnormalities, began in Ireland in 2015]

The acting Clinical Director of the HSE’s cervical screening programme Peter McKenna this morning told RTÉ One’s Morning Ireland that he’s not sure how it happened but the laboratory [Quest Laboratories] which was testing the smears “started counting the 30 days from the time the smear came into the laboratory rather than from the time the smear was taken in the smear takers’ clinic”.

Mr McKenna said that the HSE was alerted to this problem with the additional HPV tests at the “end of November”, while the scale of the problem unfolded in December and the HSE has been trying to identify the affected women since the beginning of the new year.

Quest Diagnostics is the laboratory whom the late Emma Mhic Mathúna sued.

Several TDs raised the matters in the Dáil this afternoon, with Tánaiste Simon Coveney telling the Dáil that the Minister for Health Simon Harris was told about the additional HPV testing concerns in December.

Mr Coveney told Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary that the impression Mr Calleary was giving – that the Government is trying to hide something – isn’t true.

He said:

“The HSE has said that it was made aware of this issue in November, the minister was made aware of the issue regarding secondary HPV testing in December. The issue was discussed at the CervicalCheck steering committee including with patient reps who are working very hard at that committee on a range of issues involved and outlined in published weekly reports.

“The minister sought regular updates but a final report was not available to him in terms of the numbers involved or who they were. And so when this issue was raised yesterday, I don’t believe he did have the information to be able to provide it until that was available today.”

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Labour’s Brendan Howlin also asked Mr Coveney questions about the matter.

Mr Doherty asked for Mr Coveney to be more specific about when Mr Harris was notified of the HPV testing issue.

[Yesterday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Harris was notified of the initial matter – concerning the expired smear tests – “a few weeks ago”]

Mr Doherty said:

“How come it will be February before these women will be informed that they need to go through another test – two months later?

“What did the minister do in relation to this here? How come we are so late in the day and women haven’t been informed that the information that they may have received in relation to their second test, remember the second test was a result of an abnormality in the first, may be inaccurate and was carried it outside the manufacturing’s timeframe?”

“And how can we be assured that this is the end of it, minister? That there is no more women out there that will get a letter through the door or a phonecall from their GP telling them that information that has been relayed to them in relation to life-threatening screening may be inaccurate?”

Mr Coveney responded by speaking about the challenges facing the health system, that mistakes are sometimes made and that lessons need to be learned.

In relation to the HPV testing matter specifically, Mr Coveney said:

“An issue has emerged there in relation to one of the three labs that are doing this work and we are now working to correct that and that is what we’ll continue to do.”

Mr Doherty pointed out that Mr Coveney didn’t answer any of the questions he asked and repeated them.

He also further pointed out that Mr McKenna had confirmed the HSE still doesn’t know how Quest Diagnostics made the error – despite the problem being identified in November.

Mr Coveney still didn’t answer Mr Doherty’s questions.

But he said:

“The HSE has advised that all of the evidence suggests that even though the test was done outside of the 30-day window, the original results are still very reliable. So can we please try to reassure people here there is not a cause for undue concern.

This is about, this is about full transparency, that is what patients should be entitled to expect and it is about correcting a mistake that shouldn’t have happened and to give women a reassurance by having a repeat smear test.”

He added:

“The information that I gave earlier to this house, is that the HSE became aware of this issue in November, the minister became aware in December, had discussions in relation to it, has asked for reports in relation to it and hasn’t got a complete report yet in relation to it. And so the information that I’m giving to the House today is current.”

Mr Howlin said:

“The delay in getting the CervicalCheck is now 22 weeks according to the HSE. Where there is a problem with a check and recheck is required, that means another 22 weeks.

“For many people availing of private healthcare options, to get a faster check, but that’s not an option for everybody. It’s another example of the two-tier system. I was contacted by somebody today who said, when they were told of this inordinate delay, ‘we can get a fast one, if you pay’.”

“…How much scandal can the screening programme take? We are absolutely in favour of screening but the problems besetting CervicalCheck programme indicates that something is deeply wrong.

“These problems are further eroding confidence in screening and people are anxious.

“So, I want to ask specific questions: Can you, Tánaiste, on behalf of the Government, confirm how much additional funding was allocate last year to CervicalCheck.

“Two, will the Government commit to full staffing and funding, so that we can get CervicalCheck back on track and deliver the quality service that we all want.

“And finally, as a result of what’s gone on, now, as an emergency measure, will the Government undertake to refund the cost of private checks, which might be in the order of €100 to €200 per patient, in order to address the backlog and remove the inequality between those who can pay privately.”

In his response, Mr Coveney said:

“What we have is a new issue, that we didn’t know about. That needs to be addressed, that was raised with the minister in December… And was subsequently raised in a CervicalCheck steering committee.

“It is absolutely appropriate that patients’ reps and the steering committee would be the first to hear about this and indeed patients themselves would hear before the Dáil hears about these issues. And the minister … asked for, and was awaiting, a report in terms of the detailed numbers on this issue when it was raised yesterday and it became a political issue in the Dáil. And that is why we’ve had to respond today in the way that we have.”

Mr Howlin asked Mr Coveney if he could respond to his specific questions in writing.

Investigation after smear test time limit ‘confusion’ (RTE)


Mattan Lass?

Thanks John Gallagher