Oireachtas hearing into Zappone appointment not likely until September

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue admits the matters should have been handled better

Simon Coveney: Fianna Fáil, Social Democrats and Independent members of the Foreign Affairs Committee have all requested a hearing with him. Photograph: Getty Images

Simon Coveney: Fianna Fáil, Social Democrats and Independent members of the Foreign Affairs Committee have all requested a hearing with him. Photograph: Getty Images

 

An Oireachtas hearing into the controversial appointment of former Minister of State Katherine Zappone’s will not take place until September, it now appears likely.

Several members of the Foreign Affairs Committee have called on the chair, former Fine Gael minister for justice, Charlie Flanagan, to hold a session to hear from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Fianna Fáil, Social Democrats and Independent members of the committee have all requested a hearing with Mr Coveney, The Irish Times understands.

However, a meeting is unlikely to take place this month, with committee members and staff unavailable at different points during August, which is a traditional holiday month for the political system.

Ms Zappone, who now lives in New York, was asked by Mr Coveney to become Ireland’s special envoy to the United Nations for freedom of expression – a job taking 50 days a year of work, and worth €15,000 a year in pay.

Meanwhile, it is understood that a Fine Gael Minister has denied to the party hierarchy for being responsible for leaking news of Ms Zappone’s appointment as last week’s Cabinet meeting was still under way.

Fellow Fine Gael TDs are divided on the importance of the leak – speaking privately, some are demanding further action on the matter from the leadership, while others are of the view that it is a distraction.

However, others remain concerned about the optics of the appointment of the former minister for children in the last government, arguing that it is an “own goal” that has led to a backlash from the party’s grassroots and councillors.

Ms Zappone, who has refused to take calls about her appointment to the UN role since the controversy erupted last week, remained unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

More transparent way

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has acknowledged that matters should have been better handled.

“I think it’s accepted that the way in which Ms Zappone was appointed should have been done in a much better and more transparent way,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

However, he said no one doubted her credentials or suitability for the post. He had no doubt that lessons would be learned about the manner in which the appointment was handled.

“I think people have accepted that the process could have been better. Everyone’s accepted, and Minister Coveney’s accepted as well, that there was a miscommunication in advance and that it should have been done in a better manner.

“With everything that the Government does on an ongoing basis there will be issues that arise where things are not done necessarily the way that they should be. It’s important when that happens that that’s recognised, that that’s addressed and, indeed, that that is learned from.”