Simon Coveney in a 2017 photo. photo.

Coveney Retires From Political Life

Former Irish government minister Simon Coveney, long a popular figure in the U.S., has announced his retirement from politics.

Coveney, who is only 52, resigned his cabinet post in April in the wake of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announcing his resignation from the top job in Irish government.

Now Coveney is stepping away entirely from political life. He said he will not stand in the next general election.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The move, according to the Irish Times, "deprives Fine Gael of a truly front-rank political figure, a household name whose work as minister for foreign affairs during the Brexit wars, though it did not yield the anticipated electoral dividend in 2020, garnered him much respect."

 As tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs as the Fine Gael-Independent minority government Coveney dealt with the fallout from Brexit in a series of increasingly tense negotiations.

According to the Times: "Ireland’s achievement of its ultimate objectives – the avoidance of a hard border on the island and the maintenance of Ireland’s full and unencumbered place in the European single market – owed much to Coveney and the team of diplomats that he led throughout the period. And though he had a reputation among journalists and officials for long-windedness, he was never less than in command of a brief that was at times comprised of a bewildering array of moving parts."

Coveney, whose Dáil constituency was in his native Cork, did have to handle some very delicate negotiations with a British government that appeared hell bent on Brexit regardless of consequences for relations with Ireland, and the survival of the Good Friday Agreement.

In June, 2022, the Echo reported under the headline "12 Minute Phone Call Defines a Deepening Divide."
The report stated in part: "It was a phone call like few others in the realm of Anglo-Irish relations thus far this century.

"During a twelve-minute telephone conversation on Monday morning ahead of the House of Commons announcement to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, accused Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss of 'deliberately ratcheting up tensions with an EU seeking compromise.'

"Minister Coveney said the UK government was proposing to set aside international law, reject a partnership approach, as well as ignoring the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

Coveney said the Irish government and EU remain open to dialogue to find agreement but the UK’s approach 'adds to instability.'

Later in his career, Coveney held the ministerial portfolio that was responsible for trade.

In May of last year Coveney led a weeklong trade mission to New York and Boston. The mission followed  record high Irish exports to the U.S. in 2022.