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'There can be no doubt about how appointments are made': Taoiseach reacts to Coveney's apology

Coveney was grilled further on the Zappone controversy before an Oireachtas Committee today.

Micheál Martin and Simon Coveney
Micheál Martin and Simon Coveney
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Sep 7th 2021, 9:28 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS reiterated that future government appointments must be transparent after Simon Coveney’s second Oireachtas Committee appearance over Katherine Zappone’s envoy role.

The foreign affairs minister came before an Oireachtas Committee today where he was grilled further on the controversy, following an initial appearance last week. 

Following his apperance, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that “perception does matter in public life” and appointments must both be transparent and be seen as such. 

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said that “as the Taoiseach stated, the approach and process surrounding the selection of a UN part-time Special Envoy was wrong, and this should not have happened in the way it did”.

“The Minister for Foreign Affairs has apologised to the Taoiseach and Minister Ryan for this. Minister Coveney has now given his account to the Oireachtas Committee on the chronology of events that led to the appointment, joined by his former Secretary General,” the spokesperson said.

“That said, lessons need to be learned by Government on the handling of this issue,” they said.

“Firstly, any position of special envoy offered in future should only come through a fully open, transparent and advertised competition.

“There will also be a full review of the role of special envoys and their use by Government.

“Perception does matter in public life and appointments must be, and seen to be, fully open and transparent.

“There can be no doubt in the public’s mind about how appointments are made by Government in future.”

Coveney apologised for mistakes he made in relation to the abandoned appointment of former Minister Katherine Zappone as a special envoy to the UN.

Speaking to the foreign affairs committee, Coveney said: “The first thing I want to do is apologise to all the committee members for creating the circumstances that require a second hearing in a week, on the same issue of the appointment of a special envoy.

“Due to the sloppiness of some of my answers to your legitimate questions last week, we are back here again in order to, I hope, bring clarity to any outstanding issues once and for all.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday published 111 documents pertaining to the planned appointment of Zappone.

They showed that the former minister texted Coveney to thank him for “this incredible opportunity” in early March, months before the Cabinet signed off on the part-time position in controversial circumstances in late July.

Speaking after the committee meeting today, Sinn Féin TD John Brady said the minister tried to “spin a new story” that “no one believes frankly”. 

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Despite Coveney stating today in committee that no lobbying took place in his view, Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said she believed lobbying did take place for the envoy job.

She said the Taoiseach had a choice to make – to stand over “this level of cronyism” or “actually be Taoiseach”.

It is incumbent on the Taoiseach to state if he has confidence in his own minister, or whether he wants to “root out cronyism which is at the heart of his government,” said Brady.

Brady said the public were misled and the Taoiseach was left in the dark about the appointment, stating that this controversy  has overshadowed the work of government.

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