Wednesday 21 February 2018

'Peppa Pig' is only farming topic talked about in Coveney home

Fionan Sheahan

IT IS not chairing talks on a new EU agriculture budget or negotiating with the IFA that Simon Coveney regards as his biggest challenge.

Tipped as the next Fine Gael leader and potential future Taoiseach, the Agriculture Minister says maintaining a work-life balance and spending time with his family is his "biggest problem".

The Cork South-Central TD says his wife is "extraordinarily understanding".

"And luckily for me my children don't know any different and they still welcome me with open arms every time I walk in the door," he told the Irish Independent.

Struggling to keep up with developments in 'Peppa Pig' rather than the actual pig industry causes him "guilt trips". In an interview with this newspaper, Mr Coveney gave insight into how he tries to make time for his family life, while dealing with the pressures of being a senior minister.

"That's my biggest problem I have to say. I know this may sound strange for a minister to say, but the thing I find most challenging about my job is also being a good father and husband," he said.

"It is a difficult balance. I have three daughters. The oldest is only four. I spend an average of about a night-and-a-half a week at home.

"That causes pressures and significant guilt trips on my behalf, which is why I really have no life outside my family when I am not working. And that's fine and that's the way it should be," he added.

Mr Coveney (41) married Ruth Furney in the summer of 2008, and welcomed the first of three daughters a year later.

Beth is now four, Jessica is three and Annalise is 11 months old after being born last February.

The family live outside the Cork city commuter belt town of Carrigaline.

"I do find that the most challenging part of my job, that I have to force time each week -- quality time -- to spend with my family, otherwise I will miss out on, you know, the upbringing of my kids and that's not something I am willing to sacrifice.

"Well, I am willing to sacrifice it to a certain extent, to do as good a job as I can because I have to, otherwise I may as well change my career," he said.

"But I have an extraordinarily understanding wife. She is not a patient person, but she is understanding. And luckily for me my children don't know any different and they still welcome me with open arms every time I walk in the door," he added.

Mr Coveney and Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe are the only ministers at the Cabinet table with young children.

"It is something that is a pressure that I think maybe other ministers that don't have young children don't have.

"But it is actually a great escape from my job. The idea that I'd be talking about the CAP or CFP when I get home, I can tell ya, is some joke.

"You know, I am talking about 'Peppa Pig' and that's the reality. But it is a great escape as well and it is a reality check when you walk in the door," he said.

But Mr Coveney feels he is not the only politician trying to juggle career with raising children.

"And I'm not the only one in that category. There are plenty of people in opposition. People like Michael McGrath, who lives only down the road from me, has similar challenges I am sure, but that's political life. I find it exciting and rewarding but it has its sacrifices," he says.

Irish Independent

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