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Cabinet approval

Eamon Ryan says despite process 'misgivings', Katherine Zappone will make 'excellent' envoy

The Taoiseach would not be drawn today on whether the job was Zappone’s idea.

MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Eamon Ryan has said that despite “misgivings” with the way former minister Katherine Zappone was appointed as UN special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression, that she will make an “excellent” envoy.

Zappone was appointed to the role on Tuesday without it being publicly advertised, and is is set to earn €13,000-€15,000 before tax, as the salary is on a pro-rata basis.

Minister Ryan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today that the job was “a part-time position”, and is “backing up work she’s already doing”

When asked if he was happy with the way Zappone was appointed, he said: “I don’t think anyone was happy, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself admitted that in hindsight he would have announced that differently.”

When asked why he approved the appointment at Cabinet on Wednesday if he wasn’t happy with the process, Ryan said: “Because I’ve also experience of Katherine Zappone … it’s near where she has real expertise, where she’s shown over many years to be an absolute leader here.”

When asked whether he voiced concerns about how she was appointed at Cabinet, Ryan said he “can’t” discuss what happens at Cabinet, due to constitutional confidentiality.

Ryan said that he has expressed his misgivings about the process to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, but added:

What we agreed on, despite those misgivings on process, that actually Katherine Zappone – in the work that has been done here – is a very good candidate, and will be an excellent envoy.

Ministers have been busy defending the appointment of former Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to the position of UN special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression – doing work on behalf of the Irish government for a two-year period.

It’s understood the role involves working 50 or 60 days a year.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was unaware that Zappone was being put forward for the role, with her name brought to Cabinet at the last minute.

Martin is understood to have raised concerns, not at her appointment, but the procedure and manner it had happened. He ultimately approved the appointment.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney “accepted responsibility” for the “oversight of procedures” that left the Taoiseach in the dark. Martin told reporters yesterday that Coveney rang him to apologise for the oversight and that “procedurally it could have been done better”.

“We move on,” Martin added.

Speaking today at a vaccination centre in Dublin, he would not be drawn on whether the job had been Zappone’s idea in the first place, saying Coveney had made it clear that the appointment was “an emissary in the context of the United Nations”.

“He did say to me that Catherine Zappone had made a contribution to the campaign in terms of getting membership in the Security Council, and he was of the view that her contribution will be valuable in the context of the industry for freedom of expression,” he said. 

Speaking to Newstalk earlier this morning, Martin said “there’s no issue with Katherine Zappone herself: a former senior minister, a person who was a strong advocate in terms of freedom of expression, LGBT issues”.

He said that other more important issues were on the agenda for Cabinet’s meeting this week, with five or six memos brought forward.

“To me there was much bigger fish to fry in that meeting, believe me.”

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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