Simon Coveney says he did not attend Dept of Foreign Affairs champagne celebration
However, the Minister did state that he spoke to DFA staff for 10 minutes on the day in question.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he did not attend the Department of Foreign Affairs champagne celebration that took place in the summer of 2020.
However, he did state that he spoke to DFA staff for 10 minutes on the day in question.
It emerged last week that as many as 20 DFA senior officials and staff gathered at the Department's headquarters in Iveagh House on 17 June.
The gathering was held following Ireland's election to the United Nations Security Council, with a photograph showing officials and staff standing close together without face coverings.
At the time of the gathering, Ireland was in Phase Two of its initial reopening plan during which Covid restrictions meant that people were only permitted to meet up with six other individuals from outside their household.
Addressing the event in a statement sent to JOE, the Minister said that the date in question was a "work day" for him.
"At no point during the day did I attend a champagne celebration. I was in Government Buildings for the UN Security Council vote," Coveney stated.
"It was at this time a photograph was taken at Iveagh House that showed DFA officials breaching Covid guidelines.
"I had no prior knowledge of this impromptu gathering in the workplace. It should not have happened and the then-Secretary General admitted the mistake 18 months ago.
"The department apologised again last week for the breach."
Coveney added that after the vote that night he held meetings, calls and a press conference in government buildings before returning to work in his department.
"I spoke to and thanked staff involved in the UN campaign in the UN section of Iveagh House," he said.
"I did not see the Covid breach from the earlier photograph and I was thanking our officials in their workplace on a workday for the work they had done on behalf of the state.
"After 10 minutes I returned to my office in Iveagh House to prepare for a call with the Norwegian Foreign Minister and for ongoing briefings on the coalition government negotiations.”
A spokesperson for the Department told the Irish Times last week that the senior officials and staff had been working in Iveagh House on 17 June when Ireland was elected to the Security Council and reacted in real-time.
“We won in the first round and in a moment of happiness, as the result came in, we briefly let our guard down by celebrating together," they said.
"It was 18 months ago and steps have been taken to ensure lessons have been learned."
Main image via Julien Behal Photography / RollingNews.ie