Zappone ‘given free reign’ over envoy job, says Opposition

Reaction: Documents show Katherine Zappone ‘seriously lobbied’ three FG members

Documents released by the Department of Foreign Affairs show Katherine Zappone was "given free reign" after lobbying senior Fine Gael politicians over a UN special envoy role, the Opposition has charged.

In advance of a crucial meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, Sinn Féin TD John Brady said documents released on Monday show Ms Zappone "seriously lobbied Simon Coveney, Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar in regard to the position".

Mr Coveney is expected to come under sustained pressure over the appointment at the committee hearing, as well as over his deletion of text messages concerning the position, and his explanation for so doing. First, Mr Coveney offered that he did so to free up storage on his phone, before pointing to a security issue and a hacking of his phone as the reason for his periodic deletion of texts.

Mr Brady said that as different drafts and concepts of the job followed, Ms Zappone was allowed to write "her own job description". One of the documents shows that Niall Burgess, former secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs, incorporated feedback from Ms Zappone late in the process. Mr Brady said the former minister was "given free reign to do what she wanted following successful lobbying of three people within Fine Gael".



People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said Mr Coveney's position "now seems fundamentally undermined" following the publication of the documents. He claimed Mr Coveney had misled the committee on "at least two counts" last week, by saying Ms Zappone had not lobbied for the job and by "suggesting that he didn't have much to do with her appointment when Zappone clearly thinks otherwise".

“The released messages confirm this was a job made to order by one political insider for another.”

Mr Coveney has repeatedly said he did not mislead the committee.

Gary Gannon, the Social Democrats spokesman on foreign affairs, said Mr Coveney had told the committee at a meeting last week that he had spoken to Ms Zappone in February of this year, and did not feel she had been lobbying for a job. "Yet the outcome seems to have been she was given a job, and a job that didn't have a brief [designed for it].

“It seems she was selected, and then a brief was designed. That suggests to me the role wasn’t nearly as important as giving Katherine Zappone a job. Simon Coveney needs to reflect on that because it looks like what it is, a divvy up of a job for someone who was close to Fine Gael,” he said, adding that the appointment “stinks to high heaven”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times