Coveney expresses ‘full support’ in Dáil for Defence Forces chief of staff

Minister previously said photograph with Russian ambassador was ‘ill-judged’

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney has said he has "no hesitation" in expressing his full support for the Defence Forces chief of staff and confidence in his judgement.

Mr Conveney said he has "no reservations or questions" about Lieutenant General Seán Clancy's actions after he met the Russian ambassador in Dublin last Friday.

It comes after Mr Coveney told a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night that he was "surprised" by a photograph of the Defence Forces Chief of Staff posing with the Russian ambassador, and it was "ill-judged".

Mr Coveney told the Fine Gael meeting Lt Gen Clancy explained to him that the meeting with Yury Filatov was part of engagements with all ambassadors he was undertaking as he is new to his role.

The Russian navy is planning a series of drills off the south-west coast of Ireland next week.

Mr Coveney was taking questions in the Dáil on Thursday morning and said he wished to make a statement on the matter.

“I have absolutely no hesitation in expressing my full support and confidence in the Chief of Staff and in his judgment.

“The chief is holding a number of pro forma meetings at the moment with members of diplomatic corps, as a new chief of staff would be expected to do and those meetings have been set up over many weeks,” he said.

“What I commented on last night, related in response to a question related to the timing of the meeting with the Russian ambassador, and the subsequent tweet drawing attention to it.

“I have, as you would expect, been fully briefed by the chief of staff, I spoke to him again last night.

“I have absolutely no reservations or questions about his actions and I just want to put that on the record because I don’t I don’t think it’s welcome that the Chief of Staff has been brought into public commentary and political debate and I recognise that I’ve made a contribution to allowing that to happen and I would certainly like to correct that this morning.”

Sinn Féin TD John Brady said Mr Coveney’s commentary to the FG parliamentary party showed “really poor judgement” and “completely undermined the chief of staff and the difficult role and task he has at hand”.