Coveney admits he has 'made mistakes' in handling of Zappone controversy


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.32 7 Sep 2021


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Simon Coveney has acknowledged he has "made mistakes" in his handling of the Katherine Zappone special envoy controversy, including giving "sloppy" answers to an Oireachtas committee.

He also acknowledged he has played a role in creating a "political embarrassment" for the Government, which has "rumbled on far too long".

However, he insists Katherine Zappone "did not ask" him for a job at any stage.

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He also said his contact with Katherine Zappone in March 'was not a job offer', despite Ms Zappone's enthusiastic response.

The Minister was speaking as he appeared before the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee for a second time to answer questions about the controversy.

The special envoy role was not publicly advertised and Ms Zappone eventually turned down the role in the wake of controversy over the appointment process.

Yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs released a range of documents about the process, including texts sent by Ms Zappone to Minister Coveney.

Minister Coveney today apologised to the committee for the need for a second hearing.

He said: “Due to the sloppiness of some of my answers to your questions last week we’re back here again.

“This has rumbled on for far too long, and should have come to an end on the basis of a clear and credible explanation before now.”

The minister admitted he has contributed to "much of the criticism and commentary" in recent days.

He suggested he wasn't in a position to give full details last week.

He said: “Katherine Zappone did not ask me for a job at any stage.

"She did text me for advice on 22nd February about the possibility of working with USAID… and whether I could make an introduction for her."

Special envoy role

The possibility of the role of special envoy role was initially raised with Ms Zappone in early March, after the Secretary-General of the department said the creation of an envoy role was potentially of interest.

Minister Coveney said that led to a text from Ms Zappone "enthusiastically" thanking him, but he insisted it wasn't a job offer at that stage.

He said: “I should have been clearer with Katherine on the extent of the work needed in the department.”

Meanwhile, he said he didn't speak with Ms Zappone again until July - and "extensive work" was done around defining the envoy role between March and July.

In one text message, Ms Zappone suggested Minister Coveney had mentioned a 'start date' of June.

Minister Coveney said he'd mentioned June as it was Pride month, and he hoped his Department would have completed the necessary exploratory work around the role - focused on LGBTQ rights - by then.

He also said he never felt pressure from Ms Zappone about giving her a job.

Main image: File photo of Katherine Zappone and Simon Coveney. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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