Taoiseach left 'blindsided' by proposal to appoint Zappone as government envoy

Micheál Martin was not notified of the decision to appoint the former Independent Minister for Children to the position before Cabinet met today
Taoiseach left 'blindsided' by proposal to appoint Zappone as government envoy

Katherine Zappone has been appointed as the  Government’s special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was left "blindsided" by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney over the proposal to make former minister Katherine Zappone a government envoy.

Ms Zappone has been appointed to the paid position of the Government’s special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression without any tendering process or competition.

She will be paid at a “middle management” level on a pro-rata basis up to a maximum of 60 days a year and will also be entitled to engage in international travel as part of her role, all paid for by the taxpayer.

Mr Martin was left “not best pleased” at the proposal to nominate Ms Zappone, who served with Mr Coveney and Fine Gael as an independent minister for children between 2016 and 2020. 

He was not notified of the proposal before Cabinet met today. Ministers were also not given details of her remuneration package, it is understood.

While not questioning Ms Zappone’s suitability, Mr Martin made it known he had concerns about the process and the lack of open competition, and even raised questions about the merit of the envoy role.

“Micheál was not best pleased at Cabinet about this. He did not know about it in advance and made it clear he was not happy or comfortable with it. Why would he be, he was effectively blindsided,” said one senior government source.

At Cabinet, Mr Martin “raised a series of questions” of his Cork South Central colleague, but ultimately did not object to the proposal going through.

Mr Coveney and his party leader, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar are also facing a major internal backlash within Fine Gael over the appointment, with several ministers reporting taking calls from angry TDs and senators.

Mr Coveney said this appointment will provide enhanced capacity for engagement on Irish human rights priorities.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also defended the appointment, even though the role was not publicly advertised, stating that it is “appropriate” that some roles be appointed by Government. 

Aontú leader Peadar Tóbín criticised the appointment and said: “That a friend and former colleague of the Tánaiste, a minister who lost her seat in the last general election is given a new job by that minister just over a year after she left office, raises a number of serious questions”.

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