Katherine Zappone likely to be asked in front of Oireachtas committee

Coveney could face a motion of no-confidence when Dáil resumes next week

The Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to invite Katherine 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”.

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.

He said the approach and process surrounding the selection of Ms Zappone for the job “was wrong, and this should not have happened in the way it did”.


The Taoiseach said Mr Coveney had now given his account to the committee. “That said, lessons need to be learned by Government on the handling of this issue.”

Any future envoy role should only come through a fully open, transparent and advertised competition, Mr Martin said. “Perception does matter in public life and appointments must be, and seen to be, fully open and transparent.”

Motion expected

Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman John Brady said his party was examining all its options, including a motion of no confidence, while other TDs also said they expected a motion.

The committee will meet to discuss the issue next Tuesday, but several members said they would look for Ms Zappone to appear via video link from New York to give her account of the events that led to her appointment and subsequent decision not to take up the role.

Committee members want to hear Ms Zappone’s reaction to Mr Coveney’s assertion that she was mistaken to believe she had been offered the job last March, before the role had been considered by officials in his department.

However, it is not clear if Ms Zappone will accept an invitation. She did not respond to efforts by The Irish Times to contact her on Tuesday.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Coveney rejected claims that Ms Zappone lobbied for the position or that he breached Freedom of Information legislation by deleting texts between himself and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

However, Mr Coveney apologised for “sloppiness”, and for making mistakes in the past few weeks.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times