Varadkar sought to keep car and driver for Coveney

Varadkar sought to keep car and driver for Coveney
Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney is to keep his state car and driver service after an intervention by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during the last government. File Picture. 

The government has confirmed Tánaiste Leo Varadkar intervened to ensure foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney could keep his state car and driver service.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil earlier today that he did not seek special arrangements for Mr Coveney to keep his garda driver and car.

The service for Mr Coveney has triggered criticism. Labour says the annual cost for the luxury is €200,000 annually. Traditionally, only the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice get this service in government. 

Mr Martin said it was a "security" decision to afford Mr Coveney the service, made during the last government. It also did not need a government decision, he told the Dáil. 

"This communication happened before I became Taoiseach," he said.

He also confirmed that top civil servants had been drawn into the arrangement, which the opposition have said looks like a “gentleman's” deal as there are no official papers or documents about it.

Mr Martin explained that the secretary-general of the Department of Justice and Equality received a query from the secretary-general to his department on Sunday, June 28 as to “whether it was appropriate, on security grounds, for the Minister, Deputy Coveney, to retain his Garda driver”.

Labour leader Alan Kelly has queried the arrangement all week, and warned that such a request to gardaí leaves them in a difficult position, as they say are unable to say no when the request is coming from the highest level of government.

A spokeswoman for Mr Martin this afternoon confirmed that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, when Taoiseach during the last government, had intervened and made that request about Mr Coveney's car and driver to the secretary general.

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