The Taoiseach has said Katherine Zappone was “clearly seeking a role” when she contacted Simon Coveney – and admitted he 'could and maybe should” have blocked her appointment when it came before Cabinet.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast from the Fianna Fáil think-in in County Cavan, Micheál Martin said Ms Zappone’s appointment– and again called for a review of the use of special envoys.
He admitted he could “and maybe should” have blocked the appointment when it came up at Cabinet but insisted his focus was on issues of greater importance to the country.
“If I am honest I think it was wrong,” he said. “I think perception is important in public life.
“The minister has apologised to me for not alerting us and that is important and the Tánaiste has.
“We have agreed it won’t happen again but there does need to be perspective and balance as well. We are talking about a part-time envoy to the UN for Ireland.”
“So, the position I took on it, I flagged the necessity that there would be proper flagging of these appointments to Government but in my view it wasn’t of an order given everything else that on the agenda that day and my focus was very much on the bigger items that were on the agenda.”
The Taoiseach said the appointment “should never have happened” and admitted the long-running saga “has caused unnecessary challenges for the Government that didn’t need to happen.”
Text messages released by the Department of Foreign Affairs show Ms Zappone thanked Minister Coveney for the "incredible opportunity" on Tuesday March 4th noting that she would be proud to serve Ireland again.
That was four months before it was agreed by Cabinet.
Both Minister Coveney and the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have apologised to Micheál Martin for failing to let him know about the appointment until it appeared on the Cabinet agenda.
Minister Coveney has also insisted that he never felt Ms Zappone was lobbying him for a role and rejected claims that the job was created for her benefit.
The Taoiseach said she “seeking a role clearly” when she contacted Minister Coveney.
“Simon would say she was offering her services,” he said. “He went to the Secretary General and his view was that she could be of use to the country given her experience and so on.
“My position on it is that we do ned to do a full review of envoys. We have hired envoys in the past and there wasn’t the furore about them - which kind of intrigues me by the way. Politicians were appointed as envoys in the past and no-one has said a dicky bird about it.”
Sinn Féin this morning confirmed that it will table a motion of no confidence in Minister Coveney when the Dáil returns next Wednesday.
The motion insists that the appointment “amounted to cronyism and fell below the standard of government expected by the public.”
Mr MArtin said a full review of the appointment of special envoys will now be carried out.
“I think our diplomatic service is very strong but I do get where we might need specialists from time to time that we need to headhunt in areas like hunger for example or to support our third world aid programme or indeed peace envoys that we do need because some of our former leaders have been very effective as peace envoys around the world,” he said.
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