Taoiseach: Public needs transparency on Zappone controversy and Coveney texts 

Mr Coveney did not take questions from the media when he arrived at the naval base
Taoiseach: Public needs transparency on Zappone controversy and Coveney texts 

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin about plans to lift the vast majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions. Issue date: Tuesday August 31, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story IRISH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire

The Taoiseach has tried again to draw a line under the Katherine Zappone controversy and called for a sense of balance and perspective on the issue.

He also said Minister Simon Coveney’s appearance before an Oireachtas Committee and release by his department of documents on Monday should bring clarity to the situation. 

Both Micheál Martin and Mr Coveney are attending an event in Cork this lunchtime to mark the 75th anniversary of the Irish Naval Service.

They are among the dignitaries sailing onboard the LÉ Samuel Beckett which is leading a flotilla from the naval service base in Haulbowline upriver to Cork city centre.

Mr Coveney did not take questions from the media when he arrived at the naval base.

After inspecting a guard of honour from the LÉ Samuel Beckett, Mr Martin faced more questions on the ongoing Zappone controversy.

He said it had been an important week for the country in terms of the further easing of Covid restrictions and the launch of the ambitious housing for all strategy, and he insisted that the Zappone matter is not overshadowing the work of government.

“The headlines are not key. What’s key is substance in terms of issues that matter to peoples’ lives in terms of homes, in terms of Covid, in terms of jobs,” he said.

But of course there is a need for transparency. Government has to be held accountable. That’s fully understood. And the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence will be appearing before the committee again.

“He offered to do that and also comprehensive material will be released under Freedom of Information requests by the Department of Foreign Affairs which will also, I think, bring clarity as well to the situation. As full transparency as possible is necessary and will be provided.” 

The Taoiseach said the minister hasn’t given him a full briefing on the matter and that it’s up to him to appear before the committee.

“I don’t get involved in that or embroil myself in terms of the presentation that he will make to the committee,” he said.

Mr Martin said Mr Coveney will deal with the issues around texts, which should have been available under FOI, being deleted from his phone.
Mr Martin said Mr Coveney will deal with the issues around texts, which should have been available under FOI, being deleted from his phone.

On whether Ms Zappone should appear before the committee, he said: “We are talking about the appointment of a part-time envoy here - that’s the first point.

“I think there needs to be perspective on all of that. There needs to be accountability, there needs to be transparency, but there needs to be a sense of balance and perspective in terms of the scale of the issue.

“And I think the presentation to the Oireachtas committee will clear up a lot this week." 

"Katherine Zappone is a private citizen, I have to point that out, who has declined now to take up the position because of the controversy surrounding it and so forth.

“And that’s where that is. But of course anybody who can provide any information that is required, should do so."

Test messages

He said no attempt has been made to obtain her texts in relation to the issue.

“She is a private citizen and has not been appointed to any position,” he said.

He also insisted that the relevant authorities were informed about the ‘hack’ on Mr Coveney’s phone.

“The relevant authorities were informed. It was referred to the Gardaí and to the head of cyber security in government,” he said.

“The minister has offered to go before the committee again, he has written to the committee and that will happen this week.” 

Mr Martin said Mr Coveney will deal with the issues around texts, which should have been available under FOI, being deleted from his phone.

“The minister is very clear, as he said to the committee, and as he wrote to the committee, that he is being as upfront…he referenced the texts in the first instance, so clearly he wasn’t endeavouring to hide the fact that there were text messages between himself and Katherine Zappone.

After inspecting a guard of honour from the LÉ Samuel Beckett, Mr Martin faced more questions on the ongoing Zappone controversy.
After inspecting a guard of honour from the LÉ Samuel Beckett, Mr Martin faced more questions on the ongoing Zappone controversy.

“That’s clear because he volunteered that information. So I think we need to stand back and look at the bona fides of people here as well in terms of that specific point."

The Taoiseach and the accompanying party sailed from Haulbowline on-board the LÉ Samuel Beckett with the Taoiseach taking the salute during a fleet review, which included the L James Joyce, L WB Yeats and L GB Shaw.

LÉ Samuel Beckett is to arrive into the City of Cork at around 1pm and as the Naval Service Ship enters the Port of Cork there is to be a fly-past by the Air Corps.

The Naval Service is to be welcomed to the city by a blue lights Guard of Honour from service colleagues such as the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI in acknowledgement of the Naval Service’s diamond jubilee and to mark National Services’ Day.

This afternoon from 3pm, Naval Service ships will be open to the public, in line with all Covid restrictions, as a ‘Meet the Fleet’ experience.

Mr Martin said: “I am honoured to be able to celebrate such an important milestone in the history of the Irish Naval Service today.

As an island nation, the sea is of central importance to Ireland and her people, and I thank members and their families for the dedication and service shown during a challenging year, and congratulate the Naval Service for all its achievements over 75 years.”

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