'No conspiracy': Leo Varadkar on why Simon Coveney gets to keep his State car

'No conspiracy': Leo Varadkar on why Simon Coveney gets to keep his State car

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the decision to allow Simon Coveney to keep his State car and Garda driver was taken on security grounds. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says there is no “conspiracy” related to why Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney gets to keep his State car and garda driver.

Labour leader Alan Kelly asked how Mr Varadkar, as taoiseach of the last government, could make a request for a State car for a minister in a government that had not yet been formed.

Mr Varadkar replied: “There is no mystery and conspiracy here deputy and you can try to exaggerate it. There are particular security protocols when it comes to the minister for foreign affairs travelling to Northern Ireland. Whenever the minister travels there, that person has to have a garda car and garda protection. They are then met by the PSNI at the border to be escorted through Northern Ireland. That has been security protocol for the past 20 years. The tánaiste is usually also the foreign affairs minister, so this has not been an issue. However, it did happen on occasion when the minister for foreign affairs was not the tánaiste and they needed civilian drivers when they were south of the border and then had a garda car when in Northern Ireland.”

“When I knew I was going to be the Tánaiste of this new Government and there was going to be a new foreign affairs minister, I asked the secretary-general to look into the matter and decide what was appropriate. That was the beginning and end of my involvement in it.”

Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said Simon Coveney should not have a State car and driver at a cost of €200,000 per year.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Justice Minister are meant to be the only officials allowed a State car and garda driver.

A Government spokesperson has confirmed that Leo Varadkar requested the change in his final days as Taoiseach. His successor, Micheál Martin, has said the decision was taken on security grounds and said he is “not getting involved in any security appraisal.”

Ms McDonald said Mr Coveney, who is no longer the Tánaiste, should not have access to them: "It seems that the former Taoiseach, now the Tánaiste, made the running on it. It seems the current Taoiseach and future Tánaiste was left in the dark on it.

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