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zappone saga

Taoiseach expects Fianna Fáil TDs to back Simon Coveney in confidence motion next week

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy said the Taoiseach has failed to hold Coveney to account over the Zappone saga.

LAST UPDATE | 10 Sep 2021

FIANNA FÁIL TDS who vote against a motion of confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, or abstain on the vote, will face a suspension of six months from the parliamentary party, the Taoiseach said today.

Speaking to reporters in Cavan this afternoon at his party’s think-in, Micheál Martin said he does not think Fianna Fáil TDs will vote against the motion of confidence in Coveney.

Sinn Féin will table a motion of no-confidence in Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney in the Dáil next week.

It comes as the controversy surrounding the planned appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone as a special envoy to the United Nations rumbles on.

The motion states that the proposed appointment of Zappone amounted to cronyism and fell below the standard of government expected by the public, that Coveney has not credibly explained the manner in which the appointment was handled and that the Taoiseach had failed to sanction him.

Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy said the party has been prompted to table the motion because Taoiseach Micheál Martin has “failed to do his job and hold a minister, who has been engaged in a blatant act of cronyism, to account”.

“We have no option but to table this motion and to hold a government minister to account,” Carthy said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

At the Fianna Fáil party meeting in Co Cavan today, the majority of Fianna Fáil TDs said they would vote with the government on the issue, saying a whip would be applied.

A number of sources said Coveney had served well on Brexit and they are not minded to vote against him when Sinn Féin tables their motion.

Addressing the fact that the government parties have the numbers to win the Dáil vote, Carthy said that many TDs have indicated that they are deeply dissatisfied with the actions of Coveney and the Taoiseach for failing to take action.

Let’s see where the numbers fall next week, but I would be hopeful that the Dáil will restore confidence in public office by holding the Minister responsible.

Speaking to Morning Ireland, the Taoiseach described the motion as “old-style naked opposition politics”. 

In a robust defence of his government colleague, Martin said he expects Fianna Fáil party members to stand by the Foreign Affairs Minister. 

He said his focus will not be diverted from the issues he feels are more important to people, such as housing. 

“Balance and proportionality” are what is needed now, he said.

“Are you really suggesting this move [motion of confidence] has any credibility,” he asked.

He reiterated his own support for Simon Coveney and said he does not believe the UN Special Envoy role appointment is grounds for the removal of a minister. 

The Taoiseach said “lessons do need to be learned” from the incident.

A Green Party spokesperson today said its TDs “will be expected to vote confidence in Minister Coveney next week”.

And there will be some support for Coveney from opposition benches.

Independent TDs, including Noel Grealish, Sean Canney and Denis Naughten, told The Journal that they will also oppose Sinn Féin’s motion. 

Canney said there are “more important things to sort out” such as housing and healthcare. 

Both People Before Profit and the Labour Party have said that they will vote no confidence in Coveney.

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that the party does not have confidence in the government or the way in which the issue has been handled.

“This has been very poorly handled, I think if Simon Coveney had come out earlier and put his hands up and said ‘look I made a bags of this, I apologise completely’, not just for not telling his cabinet members but for the entirety of the process, we might have been able to find a way out of it,” he said.

Independents Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle have also signalled their intention to support Sinn Féin’s motion. 

Pringle told The Journal that Minister Coveney’s answers to questions during a recent Oireachtas committee hearing on the issue had not eased his concerns.

“I wouldn’t expect to be satisfied anyway,” he said. “No answers he can give other than it was what it looks like – a manufactured job for a political friend – would have.”

Coveney apologised to the Oireachtas committee over what he described as the “political fiasco” around Zappone’s appointment.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has maintained that his former government colleague Zappone did not lobby him for the UN role.

He added that he had to address the committee twice in as many weeks due to the “sloppiness” of some of his answers on the first occasion.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn, Orla Dwyer and Michelle Hennessy.

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