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'Shambolic government' - Mary Lou McDonald says Fine Gael should pay for Coveney's driver

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Pressure: Sinn Féin's leader Mary Lou McDonald

Pressure: Sinn Féin's leader Mary Lou McDonald

Pressure: Sinn Féin's leader Mary Lou McDonald

The leader of the opposition, Mary Lou McDonald, has said that Fine Gael should pay for Simon Coveney's hotly-debated driver.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has retained his State car and Garda driver, which were provided to him in his previous role as Tánaiste.

Sinn Féin leader, Ms McDonald said that her Dáil colleague's ministerial position does not warrant the car and Garda driver.

"The Minister for Foreign Affairs has an important job to do but it does not require a car and a driver at the cost of €200,000 per annum," she said on Newstalk Breakfast this morning.

"It is extraordinary the way in which all of this teed up for Simon Coveney. It seems the former Taoiseach and current Tánaiste made the running on it and the current Taoiseach and future Tánaiste was left in the dark.

"It points to the fact that this is a very chaotic, very shambolic, very disorganised government."

A State car and Garda driver offered to Mr Coveney in his previous role were retained, despite not being approved by the Cabinet.

A government decision was made in 2011 to allow an Taoiseach, an Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice a car and the protection of a garda driver. The granting of the perk to Mr Coveney's new position, however, was not made..

Ms McDonald admitted that security measures may be needed for some of Mr Coveney's weekly trips to Northern Ireland, but that they are no greater than the risk posed to every other Irish citizen.

If the Cork TD wants a driver, she insisted, Fine Gael should carry the expense.

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"You need Garda attention and protection if there is a direct threat and that applies to every citizen and everybody on public duty including the Minister for Foreign Affairs – but that is not the case as I understand it," she said.

"I am not disputing the fact that the man might need a driver, that is fair enough, but that could be provided, I would suggest, from Fine Gael party resources.

"Every political party receives State funding. Parties receive a leader's allowance, which is quite substantial. Until Mícheál Martin became Taoiseach he took part of that allowance - €30,000 to top up his own salary. I think that's the kind of resource you use to provide the kind of assistance someone like the Minister would require.

“I think that resource is the kind of resource you should use to provide the kind of assistance that a busy person like the minister would require.”


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