Social Democrats to support motion of no-confidence in Simon Coveney

Appointment was a ‘ready up job for an ex-colleague’ says party co-leader

The Social Democrats are to support a vote of no-confidence in the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the Dáil returns this week.

The party's co-leader, Dublin North-West TD Róisín Shortall, told RTÉ's Week in Politics programme the party would support an anticipated Sinn Féin motion to be put down over Simon Coveney's handling of the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a UN special envoy.

"How could you vote confidence when we didn't hear an accurate account of what happened," she said, adding that the party was particularly concerned about the deletion of texts and the handling of Freedom of Information requests by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar's Department and by Simon Coveney.

“He [Mr Coveney] is required to keep records [of Government business] and he didn’t do that,” she argued.


On the same programme, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin rejected the suggestion his party was playing politics with the no confidence motion.

“This is how this Government does its business, it affects how housing is done, how health is done, how childcare is done,” he said, arguing that Mr Coveney has said he does not think he has done anything substantially wrong, despite the ongoing controversy.

He also ramped up attention on the role of the Taoiseach, who is facing speculation that some backbench Fianna Fáil rebels may defy the whip.

The Mail on Sunday reported today that Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness is likely to miss the vote as he is in France, and has not been paired with an opposition TD. Mr Martin has said anyone who does not vote with the Government will lose the whip for six months.

Mr Ó Broin said the situation was a "bizarre spectacle of a Taoiseach who is so under the cosh of Fine Gael that he won't take any sanction whatsoever".

“We think the failure of the Taoiseach to act means we’ve had no choice but to put down this motion,” he said.

Fine Gael Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton rejected this, telling RTÉ that the Sinn Féin motion was "nothing more than a headline grabbing exercise".

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs has published hundreds of documents relating to the appointment, and Mr Coveney had twice appeared at the joint Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs.

“He has apologised and admitted this was badly handled,” Ms Naughton said.

“Sinn Féin and Eoin Ó Broin are trying to twist that in relation to their agenda next week,” she said.

Ms Shortall said the appointment was a “ready up job for an ex-colleague with three ministers involved,” arguing that Mr Coveney had been forced to come back for a second appearance at the committee as he had not provided full information on key matters, and had given differing explanations as to why he had deleted text messages relating to the appointment.

“It matters that Ministers tell the truth and we hear an accurate account of what happened,” she said.

The saga, Ms Shortall said, has “all the hallmarks of a party in Government for too long… they have this arrogant attitude that betrays a view that rules and laws are for other people and not for them.”

Ms Naughton said all the information which had been sought in relation to the appointment had been provided and claimed the opposition was trying to “cherry pick” and “twist events”, but that lessons would have been learned and processes around envoy appointments would be changed following the controversy.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times