FF’s O’Callaghan accuses ‘some’ FG ministers of disrespect

‘You can’t run a country by text message,’ senior Fianna Fáil TD says

Fianna Fáil’s Jim O Callaghan: ‘This Zappone omnishambles has inflicted a lot of damage.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fianna Fáil’s Jim O Callaghan: ‘This Zappone omnishambles has inflicted a lot of damage.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan has accused “some Fine Gael Ministers” of displaying disrespect to the office of Taoiseach, the Fianna Fáil party and the Green Party.

The behaviour of “certain” senior Fine Gael figures over the Katherine Zappone appointment had displayed “an extraordinary lack of respect” and they had behaved in a “very inappropriate way”, he claimed.

That could not continue and Fine Gael had to change their attitude to governance. “This Zappone omnishambles has inflicted a lot of damage.”

The Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to invite Ms Zappone to answer questions about her abandoned appointment as a UN special envoy after Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told the committee she was mistaken in her belief she had been offered the job last March.

Mr Coveney could also face a motion of no-confidence when the Dáil resumes next week, after Opposition TDs questioned his account of the affair at Tuesday’s meeting.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Coveney of concocting “elaborate cock-and-bull story which nobody believes”.

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin said lesson needed to be learned by the Government, while also seeking to draw a line under the controversy on Tuesday night.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Wednesday, Mr O’Callaghan said Fine Gael had to realise that they did not operate “in a silo”, they were now in a coalition and they needed to ensure that “this does not happen again”. The office of Taoiseach had to be protected, said Mr O’Callaghan.

He said that under the Constitution, the Taoiseach had the right to remove a Minister from office. “I’m not saying he should,” he said.

Sacking

It was important that there was recognition that the office of Taoiseach was the most important political office and deserved more respect. However, he added that he did not believe that sacking should be the first port of call for a Minister accused of wrongdoing.

Mr O’Callaghan said it was “fairly clear” that Ms Zappone, a former minister for children, had been trying to create a career for herself in the UN. He said it would be “very helpful” if she appeared before the Oireachtas committee,

The situation was a case of Fine Gael ministers looking after a friend and former colleague. “Fine Gael need to recognise that they can’t continue to do government business in this disrespectful way,” he said.

“This is not the way to run a government, it’s too casual, you can’t run a country by text message. You can’t create a role when someone phones up.”

He noted that Mr Coveney had apologised, had acknowledged he had mishandled the whole affair and was contrite.

He said Mr Coveney had been a “competent” Minister for Foreign Affairs.

However, it appeared that there was a belief within the Fine Gael party that they could do what they liked and Fianna Fáil would not do anything. While Fianna Fáil was prepared to forgive, he was not saying that nothing should happen.

He suggested the Taoiseach could remove Mr Coveney’s powers to appoint UN envoys.