Irish minister Simon Coveney to step down from Cabinet

Irish minister Simon Coveney has announced he will step down from the Cabinet next week.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said he told incoming Irish premier Simon Harris of his decision on Monday night.

Mr Harris is currently deciding who will be in his Cabinet as part of the reshuffle when he takes up the role of taoiseach when the Irish parliament (Dail) sits next week.

Mr Coveney, a former deputy premier, said that the time was right to step aside as a Fine Gael minister.

He said Mr Harris has made it clear he wants to create a “new-look Fine Gael” and to promote new talent in the party.

“I know he was struggling with the decision in relation to who would be in and who’d be out (of Cabinet),” Mr Coveney told RTE’s Today With Claire Byrne show.

“I think that for me having been in the Cabinet, which has been an amazing experience for 13 years, which is a lot more than most politicians have the privilege of having in Cabinet, I felt that the time was right both from his point of view and from mine to give them, him, space to create a new opportunity in the party in government.

“He thanked me and respected that.

“I think one of the most difficult things actually as an incoming party leader and incoming taoiseach is to form a team that can slot into government well, particularly in an election year. I totally respect that that is a really difficult decision for Simon.”

Mr Coveney added: “He’s going to be the youngest taoiseach ever. He’s a really talented person. I think he would want to bring forward new ideas and new energy in the party.

“I think he’ll want to bring a team with him to do that. I think for me, I don’t know whether he was going to ask me to be in Cabinet as part of that team or not.

Irish Cabinet
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I know he was weighing that up and we spoke about that both last week and again this week. But I think it makes life easier for him and I think it’s also a recognition by me too that Fine Gael needs renewal.

“We’re going to go into the next general election hoping to be in government for a fourth term, and I think a party needs to find a way of renewing itself, refreshing itself, bringing forward new faces, new voices, new ideas.

“In many ways, when Leo Varadkar decided to step down a couple of weeks ago, he started that process and obviously, my initial reaction to that was to steady the ship, to work within the party to make sure that we could manage to transition to a new leader quickly and efficiently and professionally because the country needs that right now.

“But I’ve had a chance really to think about it from a personal point of view over Easter with my family, and for me as I say, I’ve had an amazing 13 years at the centre of government.

“I think we’ve got lots of ambitious talent in the party and I’m going to now make it a bit easier. It may have happened anyway. I don’t know. But I make it a bit easier for Simon to promote that talent now.”