Michael Staines
Michael Staines

18.47 15 Sep 2021


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The Foreign Affairs Minister has comfortably survived a motion of no confidence in the Dail this evening.

The Sinn Féin motion was defeated by 92 votes to 59 after a number of independent TDs voted confidence in Simon Coveney.

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The motion insisted that Minister Coveney’s attempt to appoint his former Cabinet colleague Katherine Zappone as a UN special envoy “amounted to cronyism and fell below the standard of government expected by the public.”

It also noted Minister Coveney’s “failure to explain the manner in which the appointment was handled.”

It said the Dáil must act due to the Taoiseach’s “failure” to sanction Minister Coveney over the appointment.

Just before the debate got underway this evening, Sligo/Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry resigned from Fianna Fáil and said he would be voting no confidence in Minister Coveney.

That came after Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned his TDs that they would face a six-month suspension from the party if they failed their Fine Gael colleague.

Speaking as the debate began this evening, Mr Martin defended Minister Coveney.

“So, this motion is before us because we are being asked to accept that the non-appointment of Katherine Zappone into a temporary and part-time envoy position was gross abuse of office,” he said. “This is manifestly not the case.”

Meanwhile Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy - using Dáil privilege - accused Minister Simon Harris of leaking the news of the appointment of Katherine Zappone.

“The Taoiseach, you will remember, on day one, told us to move on,” he said.

“Minister Coveney himself went on the radio and arrogantly told the media not to create news stories.

“Rather than dealing with the debacle Fine Gael were running a sting operation to expose that Simon Harris had leaked the appointment form the Cabinet meeting because that is how business is done.

“Appointments to public bodies right up to the Supreme Court are decided not by what you know but who you know."

Vote

In the end, Minister Coveney won comfortably after getting the backing of 14 Independents – including some who don't always support the Government, like the Healy Rae brothers, Michael Fitzmaurice, Marian Harkin, Michael McNamara and Richard O'Donoghue.

Fianna Fáil meanwhile, is a man down after the resignation of Marc MacSharry.

The other main Fianna Fáil rebel John McGuinness wasn't present for the vote.

Meanwhile former Minister Barry Cowen warned his coalition colleagues that Fianna Fáil is far from united behind Simon Coveney and said this was last chance saloon for the Ministers involved in the Zappone controversy.

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


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