Cabinet should not have approved Zappone position, says Fine Gael's Simon Harris

ireland
Cabinet Should Not Have Approved Zappone Position, Says Fine Gael's Simon Harris
The Government has faced sustained criticism and pressure over its appointment of Katherine Zappone to the UN position. Photo: PA Images.
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By James Ward and Cate McCurry, PA

A Fine Gael minister has said the appointment of Katherine Zappone as UN envoy should not have been backed by Cabinet.

Minister for Further Education Simon Harris said they made mistakes when taking the decision to approve the position in July.

The Government has faced sustained criticism and pressure over its appointment of Ms Zappone to the UN position.

Asked if it was a mistake to go ahead with the appointment at the July 27th Cabinet meeting, Mr Harris said: “I think clearly now, in light of what we know now, we’ve all acknowledged that the process should have been handled differently.

“Therefore, I think that appointment shouldn’t have gone ahead of that meeting.

“But just to be very clear, I’m a member of that Cabinet. It’s a collective Cabinet decision.”

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Mr Harris added that minsters “all made mistakes” in relation to the appointment.

He said: “It’s very clear the Cabinet works, it’s collective Cabinet responsibility.

“The Cabinet made this decision and therefore we all made mistakes in relation to this matter.”

No confidence motion

Earlier on Wednesday, Sinn Féin said it would consider tabling a motion of no confidence against Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney if the Taoiseach does not sack him.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Coveney’s handling of the crisis is “not the standard expected” of a government minister.

Mr Harris refused to be drawn on whether Mr Coveney being sacked by the Taoiseach would be a red line for Fine Gael that would collapse the Government.

“I really don’t think it arises. It’s not for me to speak for the Taoiseach, the Taoiseach is well able to speak for himself,” Mr Harris said.

“He spoke very comprehensively on this issue again last night through his spokesperson.

Am I in any way surprised that Sinn Féin may consider continuing to politicise this issue? No, I’m not

“There have been mistakes made here, there are lessons to be learned.

“Apologies have been issued, information has been published, questions have been taken.

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“Am I in any way surprised that Sinn Féin may consider continuing to politicise this issue? No, I’m not.

“But at the same time, I’ve known Simon Coveney an awful long time, I’ve worked with Simon Coveney.

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“I think people of Ireland know Simon Coveney. And I think they know him to be honest, hard-working and a person of integrity.

“Do people make mistakes? Yes, they do. Was there a mistake made here? Yes, there was.

“But if Sinn Féin want to continue with the politics, that that’s their decision and their choice, but the Government is just getting on with the people’s business.”

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