Taoiseach not told of Zappone appointment to UN envoy role

Cabinet agrees new 10-year package for capital spending of €136bn, which is €45bn more than the existing National Development Plan

Taoiseach Micheál Martin complained that he was not given the "heads up" on the planned appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone to a new UN role, it has emerged.

The Cabinet agreed yesterday to appoint Ms Zappone, who was the minister for children in the previous Fine Gael-Independent government, to the role of special envoy for freedom of expression working with the UN.

A number of Government sources said Mr Martin was unhappy he was not informed before the meeting that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was bringing a memo on the proposal to Cabinet.

A Government spokesman said that as special envoy she would “focus on freedom of opinion and expression, to provide high-level engagement on a small number of established Irish human rights priorities”.


“She has a lifetime’s work helping to change the Constitution for marriage Equality and also the Eighth Amendment. She will be remunerated on a pro-rata basis, up to a maximum of 60 days a year.”

The Government has yet to reveal what her exact salary will be.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD called on Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to answer questions in relation to the appointment. He said he wanted to know what the recruitment process was, if the position was advertised and if so, how many people applied for the job.

He said he also had questions around what the roles and responsibilities were.

Defending the move, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said: "Katherine has a really strong record in public life here in Ireland.

"She's been a member of the Oireachtas, a member of government, and she has a really big expertise in the area that we're going to be asking her to advocate the Irish position on, which is human rights and freedom of expression.

“The justification for the role is that there are many countries at the moment that do realise there are particular values on particular projects that have to have representation at diplomatic level.”

Capital spending

Meanwhile, the Cabinet also agreed to a significant increase in capital spending over the coming years. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath outlined to Ministers a new 10-year package for capital spending of €136 billion, which is €45 billion more than the existing National Development Plan (NDP) or an increase of 49 per cent.

Each government department has been given a specific allocation for the coming years and further details around projects will be revealed presently.

In 2022 a capital budget of €11.1 billion is being earmarked, which is an increase from the €9.8 billion allocation this year.

It is expected that major themes in the new NDP will be the need to accelerate the construction of social and affordable homes, improvements to healthcare capacity, investment in education and research and climate issues.

Separately, Mr Coveney announced proposals for new overseas missions in Miami, Toronto, Lyon and a new embassy in Dakar.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times