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Junior Foreign Affairs Minister can't say if UN job offered to Zappone will be filled

The DFA has said a decision on the next steps will not be taken until next month.

Ireland's flag at the UN building in New York.
Ireland's flag at the UN building in New York.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Aug 5th 2021, 4:38 PM

A JUNIOR MINISTER in the Department of Foreign Affairs has said he cannot say for sure if the UN Special Envoy position for which Katherine Zappone was nominated will be filled. 

Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Colm Brophy told RTÉ’s News at One that the proposed position is “important” but that the government must first look at “the whole process around envoys”. 

Zappone yesterday officially declined the position of UN Special Envoy for Freedom of Opinion and Expression after a week of political pressure about the appointment process and the revelation about a recent event in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel she held

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said last week that Zappone was involved in Ireland’s successful bid to become a member of the UN Security Council and that she subsequently told him if there was “anything she could do” on the council she would be interested. 

Coveney said the role was “developed” by his department and he acknowledged that no other candidate was considered for the position. He also said that the role was not a “makey up job” for Zapppone.

Speaking today following Zappone’s decision not to take the role, Brophy was asked whether the position would be filled by another candidate. 

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that, I don’t know. That will obviously be a consideration for government and for Minister Coveney,” he said. 

I think the type of work that special envoys do in that area is important, but obviously one of the things we’ve indicated here is that we will look at the whole process around envoys. So as of this moment in time, I can’t tell you how we’re going to progress with it. 

Brophy said that “mistakes were made in relation to this appointment” and that the government needed to look at how future appointments are made before proceeding.

“I think rather than rush to judgment or be rushed to comment we need to fully evaluate what happened,” he said. 

We’re in the midst of a process now. You have to remember that Katherine Zappone has literally just stepped down in the last 24 hours. So I think we’ll start that process and look at it.

In a statement this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that it a decision on how the process takes place will not take place until September. 

“The process will be reviewed after August. There is merit in the use of special envoys to advance our human rights priorities, which is why this role was created in the first place. We will discuss internally and within government and decide in due course,” they said.  

Speaking last week, Coveney had said that other countries on the UN Security Council use special envoys “to advocate and to represent a country”. 

“And I thought, it was my judgement, I thought Katherine would be very suitable for that role and she happened to live in New York,” he said. 

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Rónán Duffy

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