Taoiseach not told in advance of decision to appoint Katherine Zappone to taxpayer-funded UN role
Government accused of ‘cronyism’ over appointment of former minister
July 27 2021 04:59 PM
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has raised concerns that he was not told in advance of a decision by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to appoint former minister Katherine Zappone to a newly created taxpayer-funded position.
The Government has been accused of “cronyism” in the appointment of former TD Ms Zappone, who lost her seat in the last general election.
The Cabinet agreed to appoint Ms Zappone as a Special Envoy for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Mr Coveney brought a memo on the proposal to Cabinet today.
However the Taoiseach raised concerns at Cabinet that he was not informed of the decision in advance of the meeting.
A senior Fianna Fáil source said: “The appointment shouldn’t have happened the way it happened.”
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe this afternoon sought to defend the appointment after it was criticised by some in the Opposition.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Donohoe said the former children’s minister will receive a salary equating to that of “middle management role” in the civil service. He was unable to say how much this would be.
He revealed Ms Zappone was hand-picked for the newly created position and admitted the role was not advertised. He said it is “appropriate” that there are some roles the Government can create and select individuals to fill.
“The Government believes that Katherine, because of her experience in human rights, the work that she’s done as a member of government, and indeed the work that she did in assisting Simon Coveney in the campaign for the Security Council of the United Nations, is eminently qualified to do the work
“The justification for the role is that there are many countries at the moment that do realise there are particular values or particular projects that could do with representation at a diplomatic level,” he said.
“They do that through the designation of envoys and Katherine will be doing work on behalf of the Government for two-year periods in relation to freedom of expression and will be working with in particular the team in the UN regarding advocating the views of the Irish Government with regard to that,” he added.
The minister defended suggestions that the appointment looked like ‘jobs for the boys’ by saying Ms Zappone would “only be known to a few members of Cabinet”.
Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín TD said the appointment is “cronyism pure and simple”.
“This smacks of Government of insiders, for insiders, by insiders. It is the opposite to a fair an open process for citizens. We are calling on the Tánaiste to answer these questions openly,” he said.
“This appointment at the last Cabinet meeting before the summer recess will have raised eyebrows throughout Ireland.
“That a friend and former colleague of the Tánaiste, a minister who lost her seat in the last general election is given a new job by that minister just over a year after she left office, raises a number of serious questions,” he added.