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Leah Farrell/

Sinn Féin motion on Coveney is a publicity stunt, says Humphreys

The Minister for Social Protection said today that there are “more important things” than the controversy surrounding Coveney’s appointment of Katherine Zappone to a UN special envoy position.

FINE GAEL MINISTER Heather Humphreys has accused Sinn Féin of staging a “publicity stunt” in tabling a vote of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney over his appointment of Katherine Zappone to a UN special envoy role.

Speaking on This Week on RTÉ Radio, Humphreys, the Minister for Justice and Social Protection, conceded that “Zapponegate” had not been handled well, but “there’s more important things on the agenda just at the minute”.

“When you look at the instability in Northern Ireland, discussions on the protocol, risk to the institutions, it would really serve Sinn Féin better to be supporting Simon Coveney and working with them to try and find solutions in Northern Ireland, instead of wasting time on publicity stunts, such as this no-confidence motion,” she said.

Sinn Féin is to use its speaking slot on Wednesday to put down a no-confidence motion in Coveney.

The controversy surrounding former minister Zappone’s appointment to a UN envoy role concerning freedom of expression, as well as an event she held in the Merrion Hotel over the summer, has rumbled on as the Business Post revealed this morning that government officials told a state body that hotels could not hold outdoor events at the time.

When questioned over whether the event was contrary to public health restrictions, the government said that gatherings of up to 200 people could be held outdoors.

The hospitality sector said at the time that it was not aware of this.

The Social Democrats and Labour are both expected to support the motion against Coveney. The Social Democrat’s co-leader Róisín Shortall said yesterday that her party would vote against Coveney.

Labour’s spokesperson on foreign affairs Brendan Howlin said earlier this week that his party would support the motion though it would not table one itself. He said Labour has no confidence in the Government in general.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed on Friday that the Fianna Fáil party whip will be applied for the vote. The Green Party has also said that its TDs will be expected to vote with the government.

Humphreys said Coveney “was instrumental in preventing a hard border with Northern Ireland, and his experience is needed more than ever”.

“He’s an honourable person, he’s genuine in his efforts to find solutions to difficult problems, he’s experienced, he’s well respected across Europe,” she said.

Humphreys said that it was a matter for Zappone herself whether she should speak publicly about the controversy.

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