'Time to move on': Taoiseach downplays Zappone appointment as Coveney 'oversight'

Mr Martin said Mr Coveney has been “at pains” to point out that he was not trying to pull a fast one at Cabinet with the appointment and said it is “now time to move on”.
'Time to move on': Taoiseach downplays Zappone appointment as Coveney 'oversight'

Micheál Martin confirmed he was not notified ahead of Cabinet yesterday of Ms Zappone's appointment. Picture: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said an oversight by Minister Simon Coveney was the cause of him not being told in advance of Katherine Zappone’s appointment as a Special Envoy.

Mr Martin was left “blindsided” by Mr Coveney at Cabinet on Tuesday and raised concerns during the meeting about the process and the merit of the envoy role.

The Taoiseach confirmed he was not notified ahead of Cabinet yesterday, regarding the appointment of Ms Zappone to new UN role as Special Envoy for Freedom of Expression.

Mr Martin said Mr Coveney has been “at pains” to point out that he was not trying to pull a fast one at Cabinet with the appointment and said it is “now time to move on”.

“Minister Simon Coveney accepts that it was “an oversight in terms of procedures. We move on, we leave it at that,” he said.

Mr Martin said the idea of special envoys being deployed and their merit is “an area that needs further examination”.

On restrictions, Mr Martin suggested the Government will examine lifting more restrictions at the end of August, but it will depend on the spread of the Delta variant.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Martin also said that he has made it clear to EU President Ursula von der Leyen that the EU deal on fishing quotas post Brexit is “not good enough” for Ireland and he has sought additional meetings to resolve this matter.

Tànaiste Leo Varadkar, speaking on Wednesday, said he accepted the Taoiseach should have been informed in advance about Ms Zappone's name.

He rejected Opposition accusations of cronyism and said the total remuneration for the role would be about €15,000 a year.

Mr Varadkar said had this appointment been given to a former official no one would have cared and it is only because Ms Zappone is a former politician that an issue is being made of it.

He said Ms Zappone approached Mr Coveney to offer herself for the role and it was agreed she was an ideal candidate.

He said envoy positions are ones that are not usually open to competition.

More information needed

A senior Fianna Fáil TD says that the appointment of Ms Zappone needs more information to dispel the idea that it is a political stroke.

Barry Cowen told RTÉ's Drivetime that the Taoiseach should have asked for more information on Ms Zappone's appointment to the job when it came before Cabinet on Tuesday.

He said that more information was needed on how the job was filled. He said it was "easy for people to say" that the role looks like either cronyism or a political stroke.

"But if there is more clarity brought to bear in relation to this issue, that can be dispelled.

"It can be dispelled and I expect it will and it should."

Mr Cowen said that the fact that the role was raised at Cabinet showed that it was "of crucial importance and relevance" and that he was seeking reassurance that the decision made was a collective one.

"A decision was taken and the decision is a collective one and one where everybody should have been adequately informed in order to make the right decision. I hope, and need to be assured that they did.

"If I was sitting at a table and I hadn't all the information that I felt should be available to me to make a decision, ultimately I wouldn't allow a decision to be made.

"Obviously, they will say that the right information was put in front of them. So let's hear what it is and let's move on."

Mr Cowen said that it was "somewhat bizarre" the manner that the appointment ended up in the public domain. He said that he wants to know that the post entails and what the expectations are from Cabinet.

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