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Oireachtas committee set to quiz Coveney on champagne celebration

The Foreign Affairs Minister will face questions from an Oireachtas committee next week on a June 2020 champagne celebration in his department.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney will appear before the committee next week (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney will appear before the committee next week (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney will appear before the committee next week (Niall Carson/PA)

Simon Coveney will face questions from an Oireachtas committee next week about a June 2020 champagne celebration in his department.

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, alongside secretary general Joe Hackett, will appear in front of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon, the PA news agency understands.

A report into the gathering published earlier this week, authored by Mr Hackett, found a “serious breach” of Covid-19 social distancing rules had occurred in the Department of Foreign Affairs in June 2020.

The publication of the report came in the wake of weeks of controversy over the gathering of Department staff, held in the aftermath of Ireland winning a seat on the UN Security Council, while the country was still under strict lockdown.

The controversy came to light after a photo of around 20 staff, seen drinking Moet champagne, was tweeted by the former secretary general Niall Burgess, before being quickly deleted.

The report found “no evidence” that any breach took place while Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney was present, or that the event had been planned in advance.

However, opposition parties criticised the report and Sinn Fein has called instead for an independent inquiry into the matter.

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Mr Coveney, while rejecting those calls, had said that he would be happy to take further questions on the controversy from the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee.


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