Coveney dodges questions at his department at the champagne bash that broke the lockdown

Secretary of State Simon Coveney has defied questions at a champagne reception by officials in his department for flouting lockdown rules.

R Coveney said this week that he did not attend the June 2020 bash at Ewegh House, where his staff were celebrating after Ireland won a seat on the UN Security Council while strict lockdown measures were still in place.

In a statement on Wednesday, the minister denied being involved in the program, but said he had spoken to the staff after the results to thank them for their work on the campaign, before returning to his office after 10 minutes.

I made a detailed statement in writing on Wednesday and I have nothing more to add Simon Coveney

When contacted by reporters on Friday, he declined to say whether his officials would be disciplined for the violations, or if he was prepared to answer questions before the Orechtas foreign affairs committee on the matter.

“I made a detailed statement in writing on Wednesday and I have nothing more to add,” said Mr. Coveney upon arrival at the King’s Inn in Dublin, where he participated in the release of a book on the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. were taking.

The minister was also asked whether he was avoiding questions on the issue and whether he had seen any evidence of the party while thanking its officials.

“I have said what I had to say on this and I am leaving it at that,” he replied.

Mr Coveney’s appearance at Friday’s book release to mark the centenary of the Anglo-Irish Pact was marked in the government’s ministerial public engagement diary earlier this week.

But the State Department’s press office said Friday that the engagement was “accidentally” added, and that he would not speak to the press.

After a photo surfaced of officers toasting them with champagne, the department apologized for the incident, issuing a statement saying “we let the guard down for a while”.

At least 20 officers and staff of the department were pictured at the event at Evegh House on 17 June 2020, while pandemic restrictions were still in place.

A spokesman said the steps were taken to ensure “lessons are learned” following the violation of public health guidelines.

Addressing the controversy on Wednesday, Mr Coveney issued a statement saying: “June 17, 2020 was a working day for me. At no point during the day did I attend the champagne ceremony.

“I was in the government buildings for the UN Security Council vote.

“At this time a photo was taken at Evegh House showing DFA officials in violation of the COVID guidelines.

“I had no prior knowledge of this sudden gathering at the workplace.

“This should not have happened and the then general secretary admitted the mistake 18 months ago. The department apologized again last week for the violation.”


Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he did not attend the ceremony (Peter Byrne/PA)

He said: “I spoke to the staff involved in the UN campaign in the United Nations section of Ewegh House and thanked them.

“I had not seen the Covid violation from the earlier picture and I was thanking my officers at their workplace for the work done by the state on their behalf.

“After 10 minutes I returned to my office at Evegha House for a call with the Norwegian foreign minister and the ongoing briefing on the coalition government talks.”

Mr Coveney recently escaped a no-confidence motion in the Daily over another controversy related to the appointment of former minister Catherine Japon as special envoy to the United Nations.