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'I've been busy this week': Coveney says he's not met or spoken to Zappone while in New York

Zappone has declined an invite to come before an Oireachtas Committee to discuss her abandoned appointment as UN special envoy.

Minister Simon Coveney speaking to the Irish media before heading off to Washington DC.
Minister Simon Coveney speaking to the Irish media before heading off to Washington DC.

MINISTER SIMON COVENEY has said he has not met with or been in contact with former minister Katherine Zappone while in New York, where she lives, this week. 

In response to questions from reporters close to the United Nations Building in Manhattan about whether they had spoken, he said:

“No I haven’t. I have been busy this week. Katherine Zappone makes her own decisions. I haven’t spoken to her this week.”

Asked whether Zappone has tried to get in contact with him, Coveney replied: “No.”

Zappone has declined an invite to come before an Oireachtas Committee to discuss her abandoned appointment as UN special envoy.

Zappone, who was offered a role as Ireland’s UN special envoy for freedom of expression, was asked to appear before the foreign affairs committee to answer questions about the appointment.

In her response to the invitation, Zappone wrote: “I acknowledge receipt of the invitation to meet with the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.”

“I respectfully decline.”

When the Taoiseach was asked this week if he believed Zappone should answer questions at the committee, he said Zappone is a “private citizen” now.

Minister Coveney agreed with that position, stating:

“As the Taoiseach said, Katherine Zappone is a private citizen now. 

“My view on this is the same as the Taoiseach’s. Once someone leaves public life, they are a private citizen and they make their own decisions. That’s the position on Katherine Zappone,” he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, the Cabinet minister who communicated with Zappone about the role, was grilled by the foreign affairs committee twice over the circumstances and transparency of the appointment process.

He told the committee that Zappone did not lobby him for the role and that Zappone, who moved to New York, had reached out to him in the summer of last year to say she would be available to help with Ireland’s work with the United Nations.

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Sinn Féin TD John Brady, a member of the Oireachtas committee, said he believed Zappone’s decision not to attend was an “abdication” of her responsibilities of a former minister.

Cabinet approved the appointment of Zappone to the new role of UN Special Envoy for freedom of opinion and expression in late July, but questions arose around the transparency and objectiveness of the appointment process, which had not been publicly advertised.

Zappone came under further pressure after it was revealed that she hosted an event at the Merrion Hotel in July which Tánaiste Leo Varadkar attended.

Texts between Zappone and Coveney released by his department earlier this month show that she texted the minister in March to thank him for the “incredible opportunity” months before Cabinet signed off on the position.

TheJournal.ie’s Political Correspondent Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s visit to New York this week.

Stay up-to-date by following @christinafinn8@TJ_Politics@thejournal_ie and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page

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