Cooney named as foreign affairs head


THE GOVERNMENT has appointed Irish Ambassador to Britain David Cooney to be the next secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs. He will replace Dermot Gallagher, who is retiring.

Mr Cooney, who will take over in Iveagh House in late January, was one of a small number of candidates to apply for the country’s top diplomatic position.

The son of a Wexfordman who went to London, Mr Cooney left there in his early twenties and went to Dublin to apply for a post in the Irish Civil Service, first working in the Department of Agriculture for five years until 1979.

Since then, he has held a number of jobs. He was a key official during the negotiation of the Belfast Agreement; served as foreign affairs’ political director during the 2004 EU presidency and ambassador to the United Nations.

He was the lead author of the 1994 White Paper on Irish Foreign Policy under the eye of then-tánaiste Dick Spring, which laid the foundation for the major increases in overseas development aid.

Mr Cooney is understood to have faced competition for the secretary general post from Anne Anderson, currently Ambassador to Paris; political director Rory Montgomery and Brendan Rogers of Irish Aid.

The outgoing secretary general, Mr Gallagher, is regarded as a legend within the Civil Service, and known to colleagues as “DAG”. A native of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, he joined the diplomatic service in 1969.

He spent the early years of his career in San Francisco; at the New York headquarters of the UN; and in London. He was seconded to Brussels in the early 1980s as a deputy chef de cabinet with the European Commission.

He returned to the department and was later appointed ambassador to Nigeria.

He was a highly successful ambassador to Washington between 1991-1997, before returning to Dublin to lead officials working on Northern Ireland.