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Taoiseach's Secretary General to come before Oireachtas Committee over Zappone appointment

Martin Fraser in the Department of An Taoiseach will face the committee, though Zappone has confirmed she will not.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his department's Secretary General Martin Fraser at a meeting in Dublin Castle last year
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his department's Secretary General Martin Fraser at a meeting in Dublin Castle last year
Image: Julien Behal Photography/Rollingnews.ie

A SENIOR OFFICIAL in the Department of An Taoiseach has agreed to appear before an Oireachtas Committee over the process of appointing Katherine Zappone as a UN special envoy.

The department’s Secretary General Martin Fraser will face questions from the committee members about the abandoned appointment of former children’s minister Zappone as a special envoy for freedom of expression. 

However, the former minister has declined an invitation from the committee to come before it to discuss her side of the affair.

Fraser, who is set to become Ireland’s ambassador to the UK in 2022, has served as Secretary General in the Department of An Taoiseach for 10 years.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin received an apology from the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney after the minister’s intention to appoint Zappone to the envoy role was not communicated to the Taoiseach ahead of a Cabinet meeting where Coveney sought approval for the assignment.

Cabinet approved the appointment to the new role in late July at its last meeting before its summer recess.

However, questions quickly arose concerning the transparency and objectiveness of the appointment process, which had not been publicly advertised.

Zappone was put under further pressure when it was revealed that she held an event at the Merrion Hotel in July days ahead of the Cabinet meeting which Tánaiste Leo Varadkar attended.

She subsequently confirmed that she would not take up the role.

Coveney has come before the foreign affairs committee twice over the circumstances and transparency of the appointment process, but Zappone herself declined an invitation from the committee yesterday.

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Speaking to reporters in New York, where he is attending UN events this week, the Taoiseach said that Zappone is a “private citizen” now when he was asked if he believed she should answer the committee’s questions.

“We have to keep this in perspective, which I have been saying consistently, this was a part-time position as an envoy that hasn’t gone ahead,” he said. 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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