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Future special envoys should be appointed through open competition, says Taoiseach

The Department of Foreign Affairs is expected to publish documents today relating to Katherine Zappone’s role.

Katherine Zappone
Katherine Zappone
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

FUTURE APPOINTMENTS OF any special envoys should be made through an open competition, the Taoiseach has said.

The government must “learn lessons” from the fallout of Katherine Zappone’s appointment as a UN special envoy.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that any envoy roles in the future should be done through an open public competition and that there needs to be “transparency”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is expected to publish documents soon relating to Zappone’s appointment as a UN special envoy for freedom of opinion and expression.

The former children’s minister was offered the role during the summer after communication between Zappone, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and his department.

However, the role had not been publicly advertised, leading to concerns about transparency and objectiveness around the appointment process, and Zappone ultimately said she would not be taking up the position.

Martin said today that “it’s important that we have transparency in relation to this issue and I also think it’s important that we in government learn lessons from this”.

“I think there needs to be a full review of the role of envoys into the future, the added value they may or may not bring to certain situations,” he said.

He said there are “lessons we have to learn from this particular episode”.

“I think the transparency will flow, hopefully, from what is published today.”

The Taoiseach, who indicated last week he believed the contention surrounding the appointment had been overly drawn out, repeated his wish to “keep this in perspective”, saying that his focus is currently on Covid-19 and the return of schools.

Minister Coveney is due to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to face questions about the appointment for a second time after clarity was sought over differing versions of events.

The documents to be released by his department today are expected to include some communication between the minister and Zappone regarding the appointment.

Coveney came under fire last week when he said he deleted a number of text messages exchanged with Zappone and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

“I’ve been hacked and I’m Minister Foreign Affairs and Defence, so I think it is prudent that I clear my phone quite regularly,” Coveney said.

Texts later released by Varadkar show that he texted Coveney in July to ask if he “knew anything” about Zappone taking on the envoy role. 

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The conversation came a few days before Varadkar was due to attend an event organised by Zappone at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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