Donohoe defends appointment of Zappone to UN position

Former minister in previous administration appointed as UN special envoy for freedom of expression, amid claims of cronyism as job was not advertised to public
Donohoe defends appointment of Zappone to UN position

Katherine Zappone, a former children's minister in the last Fine Gael-led government, is to be appointed as the UN special envoy for freedom of expression. File picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has defended the government's appointment of a former minister to a new UN position.

Katherine Zappone, a former children's minister in the last Fine Gael-led government, is to be appointed as the UN special envoy for freedom of expression, with the Cabinet approving the proposal brought by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney today.

Ms Zappone's salary will be paid by the Department of Foreign Affairs and will involve a considerable amount of foreign travel.

Mr Donohoe defended the decision when it was put to him that the optics of such an appointment could be viewed as cronyism as the job was not advertised to the public.

Mr Donohoe said that "Katherine would only be known by a small number or a few members of the Cabinet now.

"She would be known as a politician to all the members, but she did only work closely with the Fine Gael members of cabinet and this was an appointment that the Government overall wanted to make," Mr Donohoe said.

"Katherine has a really strong record in public life here in Ireland. She's been a member of the Oireachtas, a member of government, and she has a really big expertise in the area that we're going to be asked to convert the advocate Irish position on which is human rights and freedom of expression.

"Of course I do appreciate the case that needs to be made for this role that I believe Katherine is really well qualified to do that.

"The justification for the role is that there are many countries at the moment that do realise there are particular values on particular projects that have to do with representation at diplomatic level. 

"They do that through the designation of envoys; Katherine will do work on behalf of the Government for a two-year period, in relation to freedom of expression, and we'll be working with, in particular, the UN regarding advocating the views of the Irish Government with regard to that."

Mr Donohoe refused to state how much Ms Zappone would be paid but said it would be in line with "middle management".

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