Government to review how envoys appointed after Zappone controversy

Junior minister says he does not know if another candidate will be sought for position

  Simon Coveney and Katherine Zappone were colleagues in the Fine Gael-led government in 2016. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Simon Coveney and Katherine Zappone were colleagues in the Fine Gael-led government in 2016. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs will review the process of appointing special envoys in the wake of the controversy over the bid to select Katherine Zappone for such a role.

The former Independent minister in the last Fine Gael-led government decided not to accept the appointment as after more than a week of political pressure including claims it amounted to “cronyism” though such claims were rejected by the Government.

The controversy first arose when it emerged that Taoiseach Micheál Martin had not been aware of the plan to appoint Ms Zappone prior to the Cabinet meeting where the proposal was brought by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Mr Coveney last week insisted the role of special envoy to the UN for freedom of expression and LBTQI rights was not a “makey-up” job that was created at her request.

There was no open competition for the role and Mr Coveney said he never considered anyone else for it.

However, he also said what happened is “perfectly normal in terms of how special envoys are appointed” and he questioned if anyone was “seriously questioning Katherine Zappone’s suitability for this job?”

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon has been critical of the attempt to appoint Ms Zappone as a special envoy and has asked if the job will now be advertised.

He said: “If the role simply doesn’t exist anymore then that’s farcical.”

Asked if there would be an open competition for the role a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said on Thursday that the process of appointing special envoys will be “reviewed after August”.

He said: “There is merit in the use of special envoys to advance our human rights priorities, which is why this role was created in the first place.

“We will discuss internally and within government and decide in due course.”

Earlier, Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy, a junior minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that he did not know if another candidate would be sought for the job.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that. I don’t know. That will obviously be a consideration for Government and for Minister Coveney.”

He added: “I think the type of work that special envoys do in that area is important but obviously one of the things which we’ve indicated in terms of this is we will look at the whole process around envoys.

“So as of this moment in time I can’t tell you how we’re going to progress that.”

Put to him that the Government will presumably want to fill the position he replied: “We’ve acknowledged the fact that mistakes were made in relation to this appointment so now we need to look at how appointments like this take place.”

Asked if he believes such positions should be advertised Mr Brophy said he did not want to pre-judge the outcome of the review.