Coveney ordered internal investigation into champagne celebration

Varadkar ‘unaware’ inquiry into impromptu event in June 2020 had begun

Simon Coveney asked the general secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Joe Hackett, to examine the circumstances surrounding the impromptu gathering. Photograph: Alan Betson

Simon Coveney asked the general secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Joe Hackett, to examine the circumstances surrounding the impromptu gathering. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney last Thursday ordered an internal investigation in his department into an impromptu champagne celebration held by 20 members of staff in June 2020.

The confirmation by the Minister seems to have blindsided Fine Gael leader and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar who in an interview on Sunday seemed unaware that it had commenced.

In a separate interview with RTÉ’s News at One on Friday, Mr Coveney was repeatedly asked about calls for a follow-up inquiry within the Department of Foreign Affairs but did not mention that he himself had ordered the report the previous day.

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It emerged on Sunday night that Mr Coveney last week asked the general secretary of the department, Joe Hackett, to examine the circumstances. A tweet of a photo posted by then secretary general Neil Burgess – now the Irish Ambassador to France – shortly after Ireland won a seat on the UN Security Council showed people celebrating with champagne in Iveagh House.

“On Thursday [January 13th] the Minister asked the current secretary general to report on the impromptu gathering in the department in June 2020 and has asked for that report by the end of the month,” said Mr Coveney’s spokesman.

In an interview with RTÉ on Sunday, Mr Varadkar was unable to say if the gathering was illegal. The interview saw long pauses and hesitancy on his part when asked about the status of the gathering.

Asked if because of his uncertainty over its legality should it be investigated, he said it was a role for the civil service. Asked if Mr Coveney should ask his department to carry out an inquiry, he said: “That’s obviously a matter for him to decide.”