Taoiseach says he does not do Government business by text

‘I engage with people,’ says Martin responding to report of Coveney’s deleted texts

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘I don’t do Government business by text, that would be known. I engage with people.’ Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘I don’t do Government business by text, that would be known. I engage with people.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has disclosed that he does not do any Government business by text and does it all by direct engagement.

Asked to respond to the disclosure that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney had deleted some texts between him and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, and also from Katherine Zappone, Mr Martin said “any records in relation to official business are normally retained”.

However, he would not comment further because he said he had not read what Mr Coveney had told a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, which has been examining the appointment of Ms Zappone to a role as special envoy to the United Nations on LGBTI issues and on freedom of expression.

Asked during an interview on RTÉ’s News at One if he had ever deleted texts, Mr Martin said: “I don’t do Government business by text, that would be known. I engage with people.”

Mr Coveney had told an Oireachtas Committee that he had deleted texts between himself, and Mr Varadkar, and texts received from Ms Zappone, in the run-up to her appointment. She subsequently declined to take the role when it became a matter of public controversy. The texts had been deleted ostensibly for security reasons, with phone hacking been cited.

Sinn Féin TD John Brady responded by telling Mr Coveney that it was “unreal that a Minister would delete a text”.

Mr Coveney also disclosed that Mr Varadkar had been informed of Ms Zappone’s impending appointment not on the morning of the Cabinet meeting which approved it on July 27th, but at least a week to 10 days before, during a text exchange between both Fine Gael politicians.

Mr Varadkar had texted Mr Coveney to tell him he was meeting Ms Zappone and was there anything he should know. Mr Coveney had replied that his Department was considering a new role as special envoy for the former Independent Minister.

Merrion Hotel event

The Minister was not able to give exact dates of the text exchanges. He also disclosed that Ms Zappone had texted him about the outdoor event she had organised for the Merrion Hotel for July 21st but that he ignored it.

“I can’t remember the exact date I got the text but I remember seeing it after the event because of the furore surrounding it. I have to say I did not take any notice of it when I got it and I didn’t answer it and I didn’t go,” he said.

He added he did not have the date on which he received it.

“I don’t know. I was not aware of the event. I largely ignored it. I was not focused on it. I did not make the connection,” he said.

In his RTÉ interview, the Taoiseach also said Mr Coveney’s decision to appoint Ms Zappone cut across an agreement that any new appointments in Government should be shared between the three parties.

“It did not happen on this occasion,” he said.

Mr Martin also conceded that leaking from the Cabinet was a problem. “Leaking should not occur about conversations around the Cabinet tables because the context can get misapplied and all of that.

“I think there is an obligation on all to be conscious of that,” he said.

Asked if he would continue to serve the full term of this Government as leader of Fianna Fáil, he said he would.

“I [will] indeed,” he said. “All the way. I am looking forward to it. There are a lot of challenges coming our way.”