'This is not some makey-uppey job': Coveney rejects Zappone cronyism charge

Mr Coveney said they created the role and he, based on discussions with his officials, reached out to Ms Zappone and asked her to accept the paid job
'This is not some makey-uppey job': Coveney rejects Zappone cronyism charge

On the Katherine Zappone special envoy appointment, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the Government wished to follow the example of other countries who have deployed such envoys to support Ireland’s international dealings.

Fine Gael ministers knew in advance of Cabinet of the Katherine Zappone appointment but Fianna Fáil and Green ministers did not, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said.

A communications error led to the Taoiseach being blindsided over the Katherine Zappone appointment as Special Envoy, he said.

Mr Coveney, speaking on Friday, rejected that her appointment was one that amounted to cronyism.

“Some people have said this was some ‘makey-uppey’ job for Katherine Zappone as a favour, and that is most not the case,” Mr Coveney said.

Despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar saying she contacted Mr Coveney about the job, Mr Coveney said he spoke to her about it last year. 

She expressed a willingness to offer help to Ireland’s cause at the United Nations now that she was living back in New York.

“She had been working with the Government to get Ireland on the UN Security Council,” Mr Coveney said.

She contacted me to say 'if there is anything I can do, I am interested'.

He said they created the role and he, based on discussions with his officials, reached out to Ms Zappone and asked her to accept the paid job.

He said he did not offer the job to anyone else because of her record as a minister, a lawyer, and her history of campaigning. “No I didn’t consider anyone else,” he said.

Mr Coveney said the Government wished to follow the example of other countries who have deployed such envoys to support Ireland’s international dealings.

He said the original role considered by him and his department was one on LGBTQ issues but they ultimately decided to broaden it out to one on 'freedom of expression' and he felt she would be ideal for the job.

“We have a former government minister, living in New York, I asked her to do it. We decided we wanted to proceed,” he said.

"I thought about it and it was my judgment to ask her. This was a judgment call by me on the advice of my department

During prickly exchanges on RTÉ radio, Mr Coveney appeared to take issue that no one else was offered the chance to apply.

Is anyone seriously questioning Katherine Zappone’s suitability for this job? She is a lawyer, a former politician, and a life long campaigner. 

"Did anyone bat an eyelid when president Biden asked John Kerry to be his special envoy on climate change?” he said sharply.

On the Taoiseach being blindsided, Mr Coveney revealed that Fine Gael ministers were aware of the appointment prior to Cabinet but Fianna Fáil and Green ministers, including Mr Martin were not aware.

“Before a Cabinet meeting the Fine Gael ministers would meet. And I told them, as I assumed the Taoiseach would have known as well, what was coming up in relation to the memos, including the Katherine Zappone appointment. 

"There was no attempt to try to hide anything here."

He said special advisors met as they normally would meet in advance of Cabinet, but for some reason the Zappone appointment was not communicated.

“A genuine mistake was made, that should not have happened, and I regret that,” he added. 

It puts the Taoiseach under the spotlight on an issue that he hadn't been briefed on.

He said at Cabinet, he was surprised when the Taoiseach said he was unaware of the appointment.

Afterwards, he said he rang the Taoiseach to explain and express regret, but did not apologise for what happened.

Mr Coveney said he has spoken to Ms Zappone since the Irish Examiner revealed her appointment and said she is taken aback at the controversy, which is regrettable, he added.

He asked her not to consider resigning the post and to “stick with it”.

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