‘Perspective’ needed on Zappone appointment, Taoiseach says

Martin expects FOI release as well as Coveney appearance at Oireachtas Committee to clarify issue

Taoiseach Micheál Martin moved again to play down the continuing controversy over Mr Coveney’s deletion of texts from Ms Zappone. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin moved again to play down the continuing controversy over Mr Coveney’s deletion of texts from Ms Zappone. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has predicted information due to be released by the Department of Foreign Affairs on the planned appointment of Katherine Zappone as a UN Special Envoy will clarify matters regarding her communications with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney.

Mr Martin moved again to play down the continuing controversy over Mr Coveney’s deletion of texts from Ms Zappone when he said that a sense of perspective had to be maintained in relation to the appointment. The part-time position was not taken up by Ms Zappone.

“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 but of course there is a need for transparency and the Government has to be held accountable.

“That’s fully understood and the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be appearing before the committee again. He offered to do that and also comprehensive material will be released under FOI requests by the Department of Foreign Affairs which will also, I think, bring clarity as well to the situation.”

Speaking at a ceremony at Irish Naval Service HQ at Haulbowline to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Naval Service which was also attended by Mr Coveney, Mr Martin said Mr Coveney had not given him a full personal briefing on the matter.

“I don’t get involved in that or embroil myself in terms of the presentation that he (Mr Coveney) will make to the committee,” said Mr Martin, adding that he was confident that Mr Coveney would clarify matters fully when he appears again before the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee.

Asked if he believed Ms Zappone should appear before the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee, Mr Martin again stressed there needs to be a sense of perspective about the issue as he re-iterated Ms Zappone had not taken up the position of UN Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

“We are talking about the appointment of a part-time envoy here. 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.

Text messages

Asked if any effort had been made to obtain Ms Zappone’s text messages to Mr Coveney for scrutiny by the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Martin said:

“No. She is a private citizen and has not been appointed to any position but anybody who can provide any information that is required, should do so but I think the material that will emerge from the Department of Foreign Affairs will be comprehensive and will clear up a lot of the issues.”

Mr Coveney has previously explained that he deleted his texts after his phone was hacked and Mr Martin pointed out that Mr Coveney had informed the relevant authorities about the hacking and his concerns about security breaches that might arise as a consequence.

“The relevant authorities were informed. It was referred to the gardaí and to the head of cyber security in government,” said Mr Martin who played down suggestions that Mr Coveney had changed his story that he initially deleted the texts because of lack of storage on his phone.

“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 - 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 but nonetheless that issue will be addressed also in terms of his presentation before the committee. I don’t want to go into the details of that presentation - that’s a matter for the Minister himself and those who will be asking questions.”