Taoiseach says it is up to Coveney to clarify Zappone appointment

Varadkar says Taoiseach should have been told about the planned appointment, but dismisses claims of cronyism

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: he  said  he was not happy with how the appointment was handled. Photograph: Getty Images

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: he said he was not happy with how the appointment was handled. Photograph: Getty Images

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin has suggested it is up to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to clarify the circumstances of Katherine Zappone’s appointment as a special envoy.

Controversy has arisen over the move, which did not involve an open competition, and Opposition politicians have claimed it amounts to “cronyism”.

Mr Martin was not aware of the plan to appoint Ms Zappone, who served as an Independent minister in the last government, prior to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, where Mr Coveney brought a memo on diplomatic arrangements.

The New York-based job involves working with the United Nations on issues such as freedom of expression and LGBTIQ+ rights.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that Ms Zappone approached Mr Coveney about the job. Mr Varadkar acknowledged that the Taoiseach should have been told about the planned appointment but dismissed claims of cronyism.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has not yet clarified whether it was Ms Zappone who suggested the creation of the role in the first place.

At a press conference on Thursday Mr Martin was asked if Ms Zappone had approached Mr Coveney about a job that was already being planned or if she suggested it be created.

Mr Martin said Mr Coveney and Ms Zappone “had a conversation and they met some time ago in relation to this”. He also said: “I think Simon has to clarify the full sequence of that.”

The Taoiseach earlier said: “Simon Coveney has made it clear that he believes this is necessary in the context of the United Nations, and he did say to me that he felt Katherine Zappone had made a contribution to the work that preceded the campaign in terms of getting membership of the [UN]Security Council. ”

Not happy

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told RTÉ he was not happy with how the appointment was handled. He defended the decision to go through with it, saying Ms Zappone had “real expertise” in the area she would be working in.

The Irish Times sought comment on the appointment from human rights activists who have worked with Ms Zappone on issues such as marriage equality. However, there was a reluctance to offer views amid the ongoing political row.

The co-directors of the Yes Equality campaign Dr Gráinne Healy and Brian Sheehan, both declined to comment.

Another rights campaigner, Ailbhe Smyth, said Ms Zappone was “a very fine human rights activist and campaigner of very long-standing”.