Choice of controversial MP as NZ’s possible next ambassador to Ireland criticised

Opposition party ‘flabbergasted’ at rumours that controversial politician will get Dublin job

A decision to appoint the controversial former speaker of the New Zealand parliament as the country’s next ambassador to Ireland would be disrespectful, it has been claimed.

Trevor Mallard (68) was the speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives from 2017 until this month. He is New Zealand’s longest serving MP and has had several ministerial roles in Labour governments.

He is resigning this month to take up a diplomatic posting in Europe. That posting has not yet been announced, but there are strong rumours in New Zealand that it will be to Ireland.

The leader of one of the main opposition parties in New Zealand told The Irish Times he was “flabbergasted” that Mr Mallard would be considered for a diplomatic role.


ACT New Zealand leader David Seymour said he believes Mr Mallard has a “long political rap sheet”.

He has been embroiled in a number of incidents going back to 2002 when he told two International Rugby Board officials that he would insert beer bottles in “uncomfortable places” in a row over the co-hosting of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2007 he apologised after punching an opposition MP outside the debating chamber.

In 2020 he was blamed for spending NZ$572,000 (€357,300) on a children’s playground in the grounds of the New Zealand parliament, including NZ$243,000 (€151,800) on a slide. The playground was budgeted at $400,000 (€250,000). Mr Mallard has sought to make the New Zealand parliament more family friendly and to encourage female MPs to bring their children into the chamber if they need feeding.

Last year, he apologised for falsely accusing a parliamentary staff member of rape leaving taxpayers to pay damages and legal fees of NZ$330,000 (€208,000) after the staff member took a case against him.

In February he turned the sprinklers on those protesting against the Covid-19 vaccination mandates outside New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington. He also played loud music in a vain attempt to scatter them.

In June, an opinion poll found that just 17 per cent of New Zealanders approved of him as speaker, 48 per cent disapproved of him and 35 per cent did not know.

A Labour ally of prime minister Jacinda Ardern, he has long been targeted by the opposition in New Zealand.

“Some of us have described him as an inappropriate person to be the speaker and the rumour mill is that he is going to be sent to Dublin as a representative of our country to yours,” Mr Seymour said. “Some of us who have had to deal with him over the years are frankly astonished. If we were in government, we would show a lot more respect to Ireland and appoint somebody more appropriate to be a diplomat.

“The best theory I can come up with is that she (Jacinda Ardern) wanted to send him somewhere and at least the Irish have a sense of humour.”

When asked last year in a television interview if he would be interested in becoming the New Zealand ambassador to either London or Washington, Mr Mallard replied: “It is most unlikely I would have the diplomatic skills for that job.”

A spokesman for Ms Ardern said that no announcement has been made on New Zealand’s next ambassador in Ireland and a formal announcement will be made in due course.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times