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Veteran Irish politician Simon Coveney steps down as a new leader prepares to take charge

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LONDON (AP) — Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney, one of Ireland’s highest-profile government members, announced Tuesday he is stepping down from the government ahead of the election of a new national leader.

Coveney, 51, developed a high international profile when he served as Ireland’s foreign minister between 2017 and 2022 during the turmoil over the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. Brexit had huge implications for Ireland, an EU member that shares a border with the U.K.’s Northern Ireland.

Coveney has been minister for enterprise, trade and employment since December 2022.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar stepped down last month as head of the center-right Fine Gael party, part of Ireland’s coalition government, for “personal and political” reasons.

His replacement, 37-year-old Simon Harris, is due to be confirmed as Ireland’s youngest prime minister, or taoiseach, next week by Ireland’s parliament, the Dail.

Coveney, a member of Fine Gael, said on social network X that he’d told Harris “that I would not be making myself available to serve in cabinet when the Dail resumes next week.”

Coveney told Irish broadcaster RTE that stepping aside would make it easier for Harris “to promote new talent in the party.”

He said he plans to remain in parliament as the lawmaker for Cork South Central.

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