Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne has welcomed the appointment of Simon Coveney as the new Tánaiste. The senator, who was recently selected as one of two general election candidates for Fine Gael, also welcomed the appointment of two ministers.
The cabinet reshuffle came as a result of the recent crisis surrounding former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. The controversy involving Fitzgerald’s emails and Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe led to her eventual resignation following days of political brinksmanship.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appointed Simon Coveney, a Cork TD who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs, to succeed Fitzgerald. Varadkar also appointed Josepha Madigan to the Department of Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht and Heather Humphreys to the Department of Business.
“I am delighted that Minister Coveney was offered and has accepted the role of Tánaiste,” Senator Byrne told Limerick Life. “I do not believe there was anyone more qualified or deserving of the role; he is a most capable politician who has continually shown his skill and reliability.”
“I am sure Minister Madigan would have preferred to be promoted in different circumstances however I would like to wish both Minister Madigan and Minister Humphreys the best of luck within their new positions.”
“I have total confidence in An Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister Madigan and Minister Humphreys to fulfil their new duties with the utmost proficiency.”
The threat of a snap election forced the local Fine Gael party to organise a selection convention – a meeting to choose general election candidates that the party was not planning for some time. Though Senator Byrne was widely expected to be chosen, along with Senator and former Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell, the sudden political crisis forced the Limerick city branch to act swiftly.
Byrne and O’Donnell both came out in support of Leo Varadkar’s bid for the leadership of Fine Gael, essentially delivering the local party to Varadkar. Michael Noonan, who had announced his intention to retire from politics, remained officially neutral. However, the former Minister for Finance delivered a ringing endorsement of Byrne at the selection convention.
There was some surprise when Limerick city Fine Gael decided to support Varadkar over. Coveney is the TD for Cork South Central and some solidarity with their fellow Munster politician might have been expected. Instead, Byrne and O’Donnell chose to back a Dublin TD. Their decision proved to be the right one.
Coveney’s promotion to Tánaiste may help to heal any wounds remaining from the leadership contest, especially between the Limerick and Cork branches of Fine Gael. Senators Byrne and O’Donnell will have to work closely with Coveney over the next few months. An early election is still expected.