SF calls on Taoiseach to hold Ministers to account for envoy role ‘cronyism’

TD says ‘all options on table’ surrounding Coveney’s involvement in Zappone row

Sinn Féin has called on the Taoiseach to state whether he has confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Sinn Féin has called on the Taoiseach to state whether he has confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin has said “all options remain on the table” surrounding Simon Coveney’s involvement in the Katherine Zappone envoy controversy, raising the possibility of a no-confidence vote in the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Dáil.

Mr Coveney has strongly denied that he offered former minister Katherine Zappone a role as a special envoy to the United Nations as early as last March, months before she was formally nominated.

Speaking after Mr Coveney’s committee appearance, Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady said: “We will act and we will hold people to account and all options remain on the table and we will make a decision based on the response from the Taoiseach in the first instance.”

There were divided views on the performance of Mr Coveney during his two-hour appearance before the committee, with members from the Coalition parties saying privately he had probably done enough to draw a line under the matter, while Opposition members said inconsistencies in his account of the process had not been answered.

The committee is expected to write formally to Ms Zappone in the coming days asking her if she would be willing to appear via video link from New York and give her understanding of when the role was offered to her.

Mr Brady wrote to committee chairman Charlie Flanagan requesting an invitation to be issued. That move was supported by several members of the committee on Tuesday, including Independent TD Cathal Berry, who said it was a logical and fair action from a natural justice point of view, given the repeated references to her.

However, other members including Gary Gannon of the Social Democrats said it was unlikely that a private citizen such as Ms Zappone would agree to speak to the committee. He was one of several members who thought a Dáil motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney was the more likely outcome, given what Mr Gannon portrayed as an unconvincing explanation by the Minister.

Lobbying register

Mr Gannon said it was clear to him that Ms Zappone, a former minister, had lobbied both Mr Coveney and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and should have registered that with the lobbying register.

Lynn Boylan, the Sinn Féin senator, echoed the call for Ms Zappone to appear before the committee.

“For her own dignity, would she not like to clarify the record? What exactly did she think she was being offered on 4th March? As far as I can see, Minister Coveney has now made her look like the fool, that she didn’t know what she was talking about when she sent that message on the 4th of March,” Ms Boylan said.

Mr Brady said that while Ms Zappone could not be compelled to come before the committee, “she was very forthcoming in terms of lobbying for a position that is going to be funded by the taxpayer”.

Mr Brady said Fine Gael Ministers were engaged in “essentially a cover up”, and said Mr Coveney was trying to “spin a new yarn, a cock-and-bull story, and quite frankly a story that nobody believes” at his committee appearance today.

Independent senator Gerard Craughwell said he was concerned the Minister had made no mention of retrieving texts he deleted. He always said the hack of the Minister’s phone last year represented a “serious national security problem” that should be investigated.