Donohoe expresses confidence in Varadkar after Zappone event controversy

Minister apologises for ‘annoyance and difficulty’ created around Merrion Hotel function

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has expressed confidence in Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and has apologised for the controversy around the special envoy controversy.

Mr Varadkar last week expressed regret for attending an event hosted by former minister Katherine Zappone in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel.

About 50 people attended the event which happened shortly before Ms Zappone was appointed by Cabinet as special envoy for freedom of expression. She has since stepped down from that role in light of public outcry over the process around that appointment.

“I know the Tánaiste himself came out and responded back to all of the questions in relation to that event and I apologise for the annoyance and difficulty that I know was created around the event,” Mr Donohoe said at Government Buildings on Tuesday.


“I unequivocally and absolutely support the Tánaiste in the work that he is doing. I absolutely accept the explanations that he has given regarding the event and regarding his participation at it.”

Mr Donohoe said that when the event took place he was travelling on Government business and was not in a position to attend.

He was invited, he said, but did not give the invite “any consideration” because he knew he could not make it.

“I expect if I had been around I would have asked questions in relation to public health guidance and so on. But it is one thing to be answering hypothetical questions... all I can do is make clear again my apologies,” Mr Donohoe said.

“I hope the clarification that was issued by Fáilte Ireland, and the statement by the Government in relation to the rules will make all of this as clear as it needs to be. I accept in particular that in the hospitality sector, it has been another challenge to them across what has been a difficult period.”

Mr Donohoe said he accepted that there had been a gap between the regulations and the guidelines that accompany them.

Mr Donohoe was also asked about the statement made by the Government where the Attorney General clarified that up to 200 people could attend outdoor events.

“The attorneys general are independent law officers, they make a decision regarding statements they issue and guidance that the Government issues so I don’t believe any precedent has been set here that is in any way inappropriate for the future.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times