Finance minister defends Simon Coveney as Zappone row continues

ireland
Finance Minister Defends Simon Coveney As Zappone Row Continues Finance Minister Defends Simon Coveney As Zappone Row Continues
Katherine Zappone appointment, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Dominic McGrath, PA

The Finance Minister has defended Simon Coveney over admissions he made about the Kathrine Zappone controversy at a meeting of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Tuesday evening.

Paschal Donohoe said on Wednesday that his Fine Gael colleague Mr Coveney had answered questions fully and had acknowledged that “he and the Government could have dealt with it differently”.

Mr Coveney said on Tuesday that Katherine Zappone did not lobby him for a job.

The former children’s minister stepped back from the position after a storm arose around the manner of her appointment to a new role of special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression.

An event at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, hosted by Ms Zappone and attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, six days before her appointment, also triggered anger and condemnation and eventually led to a clarification of pandemic rules around outdoor hospitality.

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At the committee meeting, Mr Coveney revealed that while he did not receive a formal invitation to the Merrion Hotel party, he did receive a text from Ms Zappone about it taking place.

He also said that he had since deleted a number of text messages exchanged with Ms Zappone and Mr Varadkar in relation to the special envoy role and the Merrion Hotel event.

He said that these texts had been deleted for data-related reasons.

Asked about this on RTÉ radio, Mr Donohoe said: “I keep most of the messages that come through to me. Sometimes, I do delete texts if they come through and I’ve dealt with them quickly.”

“I don’t like to be in a position that my phone is always full of text messages that I have to respond back to.

“I do keep many of the text messages that come through.”

Asked about accusations that the appointment of Ms Zappone was selectively leaked by a Cabinet member, Mr Donohoe said: “I believe it is exceptionally important that Cabinet confidentially is protected.”

He said that any leaks from Cabinet “should not happen”.

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