Michael McGrath disputes Leo Varadkar’s account of Zappone memo

FF Minister says note did not name Katherine Zappone as candidate for envoy role

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has disputed Tánaiste Leo Varadkar's claim that Katherine Zappone was named as a UN special envoy in a memo sent to the Taoiseach's office the day before the Cabinet discussed the proposed appointment.

Mr McGrath said the “under the arm memo” sent to the office of the Taoiseach the day before the Cabinet meeting on July 27th did not mention Ms Zappone.

Mr McGrath said his recollection was clear that the memo sent did not name Ms Zappone and the first other Ministers learned of her interest in the position was at Cabinet.

"In relation to the issue of the memo being with the Department of the Taoiseach before the Cabinet meeting, it is not the case the name of the person proposed for appointment was in that memo," said Mr McGrath, speaking at a sod turning event for Logitech and JCD Group in Cork on Monday.


“This was in effect, an under the arm memo which means it is brought to Cabinet on the morning of the Cabinet meeting itself and that was the first time that the name Katherine Zappone was with the Taoiseach and with all of the other Cabinet colleagues so that is certainly the case.”

Earlier, Mr Varadkar told RTÉ's Morning Ireland the memo had been in the office the day before the controversy broke.

“The memo with the name of Katherine Zappone was in the Taoiseach’s office, the day before the Cabinet meeting,” said Mr Varadkar.

"Notwithstanding that, Simon Coveney and I had a responsibility to flag that to him as a Minister, me as a leader in Government, there should be good faith and no surprises, and I've spoken the Taoiseach about that, and apologised.

“Coalitions have to be based on principles of good faith, and we have good faith in this Government among the three parties and the three leaders, and no surprises. I should have seen the potential political sensitivities in this appointment.”

Mr Varadkar said special envoys are usually appointed directly by the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs even though there was no particular process involved.

“But because it was a former cabinet minister, it was potentially politically sensitive. I should have seen that.”

Mr McGrath also said he was confident Fianna Fail TDs would support Mr Coveney when Sinn Féin tables its motion of no confidence in him later this week after the Dáil resumes.

"I expect that all of the Fianna Fáil deputies will vote with the Government and vote confidence in Minister Coveney when we have this vote later in the week. This issue has been well ventilated in recent weeks, it has been a sorry affair, major mistakes were made," he said.

“From my perspective, coalition government can only work on the basis of trust and mutual respect and that was absent in this case and it can’t happen again and from Fianna Fail’s perspective in government.

“We expect the full details of any future appointments to be shared in advance so that they can be considered and only discussed in a proper way.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times