Irish parliament to debate confidence motion in Simon Coveney

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By Q Radio/PA news

The Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney is facing a no confidence motion in the Dail this evening.

Sinn Féin has brought the motion over what it says is a lack of transparency around the appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone to the position of UN Special Envoy last July.

Mr Coveney has apologised over the matter.

He said he  is “embarrassed” by the fiasco, admitting it has not been his finest month in politics.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said he regrets not being more transparent when the appointment first emerged publicly at the end of July.

The long-running saga has been dragging on for almost eight weeks when it was revealed that Ms Zappone was to be appointed as a UN special envoy.

Mr Coveney admitted that how he handled the subsequent fallout contributed to it becoming a political story.

He denied, however, that he did not take it seriously at the time it emerged nor that he was “out of touch” with how people perceived the controversy.

“I’m embarrassed about this, I mean this has been a fiasco since the issue was brought to Cabinet to appoint a special envoy for freedom of expression.

“I think the motivation behind that appointment was appropriate,” he said at Fine Gael’s think-in in Trim, Co Meath.

“This hasn’t been my finest month in politics since this issue became a political issue.

“I should have dealt with a lot earlier, with a lot more detail and a lot more transparency and I think we could have answered questions in a way that wouldn’t have turned this issue into an August story that has now moved into September as well.

“So I regret a lot of those things, and certainly my role in this has contributed to this becoming a political story that it didn’t need to become.”

In documents released by the foreign affairs department earlier this month, it was revealed that Ms Zappone thanked Mr Coveney for the “incredible opportunity” to work as a special envoy.

The text was sent more than four months before Taoiseach Micheal Martin was made aware of the proposal.

However, Mr Coveney repeated his claims that Ms Zappone was not offered a job back in early March, and added that he “should have been clearer with her on that”.

On Wednesday, Mr Coveney will face a Sinn Fein motion of no confidence when the Dail returns from the summer recess.

Mr Coveney said he hopes to move on from the saga following the vote, and said he believes he will have enough support from across government parties to see the motion fail.

“It became, subsequently, a political controversy that was handled, in my view, poorly by me, initially, that allowed it to grow into something that it didn’t need to grow into.

“And I regret that,” he added.

Mr Coveney also claimed that the Taoiseach “wasn’t particularly annoyed” that he was not made aware of the appointment ahead of the July 27 Cabinet meeting.

“He was just surprised.

“I had that conversation with him, I don’t think there’s any disrespect there, to be honest,” the Fine Gael minister added.

It comes as Sinn Fein is to table a Bill to tighten Ireland’s lobbying regulations following the controversy.

(Irish Foreign Affairs minister, Simon Coveney)

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