Coveney and Hackett to be quizzed by committee on ‘champagne party’

Report says gathering caused offence, reputational damage and undermined morale

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the secretary general of his department Joe Hackett will appear before TDs and Senators next week to face questions on the so-called ‘champagne party’ that took place in Iveagh House during Covid-19 restrictions in 2020.

Mr Coveney and Mr Hackett have confirmed they will attend a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs next Tuesday.

A report on the event — which took place the evening that Ireland won a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) — was completed by Mr Hackett this week.

It found “a breach of social distance guidance occurred” when staff came together physically to celebrate Ireland’s election to the UN security council.


“This breach was captured in a photograph taken by the then secretary general. Staff were not observing social distancing requirements at the time of the photo. Many had glasses of alcohol in their hands to toast the outcome,” the report says.

The report says that the “nature of the response to the outcome of the vote was wrong”.

“It has caused offence, inflicted reputational damage on the department and undermined internal morale.”

The photograph from the event — posted on Twitter by then-secretary general Niall Burgess before it was deleted — showed a group of officials in an office at the department’s headquarters, holding glasses of sparkling wine without practicing social distancing.

In the wake of Mr Hackett’s report, Mr Burgess has been asked to make a donation to a charity providing assistance to people affected by Covid in the amount of €2,000. Three other senior officials involved have been asked to make a similar donation in the amount of €1,000.

Each of the officials concerned has agreed to do so.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times