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Coveney seeks to keep State car and garda driver despite demotion


New role: Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

New role: Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

New role: Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is seeking to retain his State car and garda driver after being demoted from Tánaiste.

The Fine Gael deputy leader was entitled to the high-level security service while serving as Tánaiste. However, there is no automatic entitlement to a garda driver and State car with the Department of Foreign Affairs position.

Since he stepped down as Tánaiste last week, Mr Coveney has retained his garda driver and State car while serving in his new role as Foreign Affairs Minister and Defence Minister.

He is waiting to hear if he will be able to officially maintain the security service which costs around €200,000 a year.

The minister is seeking the additional security detail on the basis he will be travelling regularly across the Border in his new role.

He has also acquired the defence portfolio in new Taoiseach Micheál Martin's Cabinet which involves a certain level of security risk.

Mr Coveney previously criticised Fianna Fáil for the "Mercs and ministers" culture associated with its time in office.

Fine Gael significantly reduced the number of ministers permitted to have a State car and garda driver when it was elected into government in 2011. It also removed the entitlement from former Taoisigh who were previously given a State car and garda driver after they retired.

Ahead of the 2011 general election, Mr Coveney said: "In government, Fine Gael will ensure that 'Mercs and ministers' will no longer be automatically associated.

"While the savings will not make a dramatic impact on the Exchequer, it will send out a clear message that reform in the public service is starting from the top down."

Since Fine Gael has been in power the only people entitled to State cars and garda drivers have been the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, justice minister, the President, the Chief Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Cabinet ministers could employ non-garda drivers and claim mileage.

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Mr Coveney did not have a State car or driver when he previously served as foreign affairs minister as Frances Fitzgerald was Tánaiste at the time.

It was revealed yesterday the new Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will have his own military aide.

In a break with protocol, the Tánaiste will join the Taoiseach and President in having his own aide-de-camp (ADC) - an Army officer who accompanies him to official events.

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