Opposition TDs demand more answers from Simon Coveney over Zappone appointment

Mr Coveney's appearance at the Foreign Affairs Committee was criticised as "barely believable" by one TD, while others have suggested a motion of no confidence 
Opposition TDs demand more answers from Simon Coveney over Zappone appointment

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney leaves a  a committee meeting on Foreign Affairs over the appointment of Katherine Zappone. Picture: Gareth Chaney

Opposition parties have called on Simon Coveney to answer further questions in the Dáil amid a potential vote of no confidence.

Mr Coveney's second appearance in a week at the Foreign Affairs Committee on the appointment of his former colleague Katherine Zappone to a position of UN envoy failed to satisfy members that they had been told the complete story.

Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon has called for Mr Coveney to answer questions in the Dáil next week, saying his responses during the committee were "barely believable".

The minister stated that Ms Zappone did not ask for a job, at any stage and that the idea of her playing a role for the Irish government came about from a short conversation Mr Coveney had with the secretary general on February 24.

Despite text messages showing that Ms Zappone thanked Mr Coveney for the offer on March 4, Mr Coveney said it "wasn’t a job offer at that stage" and he has since conceded he should have replied confirming this.

Mr Gannon pointed out that Mr Coveney claimed he did not speak to Ms Zappone between March and July. However, messages from Ms Zappone show that June had been mentioned as a start date.

"She had a start date for a job she wasn't offered and didn't exist yet," Mr Gannon said.

"It barely seems believable."

After the committee meeting Mr Gannon said he has no confidence in Mr Coveney. 

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has said all options "remain on the table" when it comes to a potential motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney.

"The one person we haven't heard from is the Taoiseach," said the party's Foreign Affairs spokesperson John Brady.

"It's incumbent on him to break his silence and speak out in relation to this, and whether he has confidence in Simon Coveney.

"We will act and we will hold people to account and all options remain on the table for us.

"We will make a decision based on the response from the Taoiseach."

Mr Brady said he did not "believe a word out of Minister Coveney's mouth".

During the committee meeting, Mr Coveney admitted that he had often deleted text messages between himself and other minsters, which is in contravention of the Freedom of Information Act, due to security concerns.

Mr Coveney said he deleted texts when conversations conclude "as a matter of course when I don't think it's necessary" to retain them and he deleted texts from Leo Varadkar on the Katherine Zappone appointment before any freedom of information requests were made seeking access to them. Mr Varadkar later released these messages, which journalists were told did not exist.

"I think it's prudent to remove information on my phone that is no longer relevant," Mr Coveney said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has now called on Ms Zappone to appear before the committee to "set the record straight," and "for her own dignity" according to Ms Boylan, who said Mr Coveney "had made her look like a fool".

Ms Zappone cannot be compelled to appear but can be invited if the committee agrees to do so.

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