Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described a Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as an attempt “to divide and conquer”.
It was an example of “old style naked politics” and was "a bit rich coming from Sinn Féin", he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Sinn Féin will next week table the motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney in the Dáil. It comes as the Government has faced sustained criticism over its appointment of Katherine Zappone as UN special envoy, with Mr Coveney subject to scrutiny over his involvement in the affair.
Mr Martin said that Mr Coveney had apologised on a number of occasions, including to him personally, and had gone before an Oireachtas committee on the matter.
There needed to be some perspective on the issue, Mr Martin said, adding he did not believe it was an issue that merited resignation. “That's not proportionate,” he said.
The Taoiseach said he expected all Fianna Fáil members to support Mr Coveney in a vote of no confidence. The rules of the party were clear to support the party and the government, he said.
Politicians were appointed as envoys in the past and no one has said a dicky bird about it
Mr Martin admitted that he could have “and maybe should have” blocked the appointment of Ms Zappone when it came up at Cabinet, but he said that his focus had been on issues of greater importance to the country.
“If I am honest I think it was wrong. I think perception is important in public life. The Minister has apologised to me for not alerting us and that is important,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“We have agreed it won’t happen again but there does need to be perspective and balance as well. We are talking about a part-time envoy to the UN for Ireland.”
Mr Martin added that “politicians were appointed as envoys in the past and no one has said a dicky bird about it.”
“My position on it is that we do need to do a full review of envoys. We have hired envoys in the past and there wasn’t the furore about them — which kind of intrigues me by the way.”
The no-confidence motion, which will be filed by Sinn Féin this morning, says Mr Coveney failed to explain the handling of Ms Zappone’s appointment in a credible manner.
Last week, Sinn Féin said it would consider tabling a motion of no confidence against the Minister if the Taoiseach did not sanction him.
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Coveney’s handling of the crisis was “not the standard expected” of a government minister.
With the Dáil returning after its summer recess on Wednesday, one of its first pieces of business will be to deal with the no-confidence motion.
At the Fianna Fáil think-in ongoing in Cavan, Mr Martin previously expressed confidence in Mr Coveney, who is in New York chairing a meeting of the UN Security Council.
—Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke.