Government aims ‘to smother’ latest row about Zappone’s job by simply ignoring it
August 02 2021 02:30 AM
Neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste is prepared to take further action about a damaging government leak which has compounded a controversy about the appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone to a prestigious UN role.
Well-placed political sources have signalled that any further action by the government leaders would simply add to their embarrassment about the mishandling of what should have been a relatively simple appointment.
As things stand, Ms Zappone will, despite strong opposition criticisms, become Ireland’s new United Nations’ envoy on women’s, gay and LGBT rights.
The Sunday Independent yesterday reported that the Tánaiste questioned a Fine Gael minister about the leaking of the appointment on social media before last week’s Cabinet meeting had ended.
The same report also contained allegations that a junior minister from the same party had got evidence of another alleged leak from the same minister by putting false information about in order to catch that person out.
The issue is now far more of an internal issue for Fine Gael leader and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
The appointment had earlier caused friction within the Fianna Fáil party last Tuesday when both the Tánaiste and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, had to concede they never gave the required advance notice of the appointment to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
This caused further annoyance in Fianna Fáil, with some TDs and senators, saying it showed a pattern of Fine Gael disrespecting the position of their Coalition partners and adding to disquiet about Mr Varadkar’s perceived efforts to garner more publicity than is merited.
Yesterday, separate inquiries by the Irish Independent to spokespersons for both main government parties drew a blank. “I have no information at all on that matter,” a spokesman for the Taoiseach said.
The Tánaiste’s spokesman was equally reticent. “Sorry, I have no information as of today,” he replied.
One political source said the hope of both party leaders is that the onset of the August holiday will effectively “smother” the controversy.
The Fine Gael Minister and junior minister, who have not been named, but are widely known in political circles, was each unavailable for comment.
Leaking confidential information from Cabinet is a serious issue – but the necessary proofs are entirely another matter.
Some politicians pointed out that it appeared ironic that Mr Varadkar may have been questioning one of his ministers about alleged leaks at a time when he is still the subject of a Garda inquiry into alleged leaks himself.
In the past, any inquiries into Cabinet leaks have never got very far.
Ms Zappone, a former Independent senator, TD and children’s minister, is to be paid a gross €15,000 per year for an expected 50 days’ work.
Among the opposition criticisms of this and similar appointments is that they lack transparency or a system of job application and assessment.
But the bigger immediate issue concerns relations between the three Coalition parties which have endured several strains since entering office on June 27 last year.
This latest row deals a blow to hopes that relations had improved recently.
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