The Green Party Leader has said the Katherine Zappone controversy has been a distraction – but he still supports Simon Coveney.
Eamon Ryan was speaking after the Foreign Affairs Minister admitted he “made mistakes” in his handling of the saga.
Simon Coveney apologised to the Foreign Affairs Committee for giving members “sloppy” answers about the controversy – and admitted he has contributed to "much of the criticism and commentary" in recent days.
Opposition parties are still calling for further clarity on the matter – With Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon yesterday telling Newstalk Minister Coveney had “annihilated” the truth in his latest appearance.
This morning, the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald warned the Taoiseach that if he did not "apply appropriate sanctions" on Minister Coveney, her party would.
She insisted Minister Coveney's actions were "cronyism pure and simple" but did not set out what action Sinn Féin planned to take.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin must take action and apply appropriate sanctions on Minister Simon Coveney - @MaryLouMcDonald
"If he is not willing to act, then Sinn Féin will."https://t.co/V1t97lAxQs pic.twitter.com/tZyjNFVpjo
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) September 8, 2021
Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan said the saga has been a distraction for Government.
“I think Simon himself would acknowledge that,” he said.
“I think there were mistakes made right through the whole process and we need to learn lessons from that and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Asked if he still supported Minister Coveney he said: “I do yes.”
“Over the years, I have always found him a highly capable politician,” he said.
He said the Government must now move on from the controversy and focus on issues facing the country.
“I think the Taoiseach was right when he said last week’ we need to make sure we don’t lose our focus on the really big issues,” he said. “Climate, housing, the pandemic.”
“This was a distraction and I think the sooner we focus on the key challenges facing the country the better. That is what people want us to do.”
Text messages released by the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday show Ms Zappone texted 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 for failing to tell the Taoiseach about the appointment until it went before Cabinet.
Minister Coveney told the Oireachtas yesterday that he should have made clear to Ms Zappone in March that he was not yet offering her a job.
He insisted the creation of the new position was being explored in his department before he asked her if she would be interested in it.
He claimed she did not lobby him about the position and "did not ask" him for a job at any stage.