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Bad blood Coalition chaos as Mark MacSharry quits Fianna Fáil and leak accusations fly

In a strongly worded letter, Mr MacSharry branded Fianna Fáil under Taoiseach Micheál Martin an "undemocratic totalitarian regime."

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Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

THE Coalition has been plunged into disarray amid accusations of a cabinet minister leaking details of the controversial Katherine Zappone appointment and the resignation of a Fianna Fáil TD over the long-running political saga.  

During a Dáil motion of no-confidence in embattled Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, Sinn Féin alleged Higher Education Minister Simon Harris leaked details of Ms Zappone's appointment.

The explosive claim has been denied by Mr Harris, but details of an alleged sting operation by a junior minister, understood to be Limerick County TD Patrick O'Donovan, has been widely discussed in political circles in recent weeks. However, a spokesperson for Mr Harris said: "This was a clear misuse of Dáil privilege and it is untrue."

The Dáil allegation followed the resignation from his party of senior Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry rather than voting on the Coveney motion.

In a strongly worded letter, Mr MacSharry branded Fianna Fáil under Taoiseach Micheál Martin an "undemocratic totalitarian regime."

He said he "cannot stand over" a situation where "different rules apply" depending on who is involved in a political controversy.

Speaking during the debate, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said that "rather than dealing with the debacle, Fine Gael were running a sting operation to expose that Simon Harris had leaked the appointment from the Cabinet meeting because that is how business is done".

Mr Carthy made the remarks during an ill-tempered Dáil debate on a Sinn Féin motion of no-confidence in Mr Simon Coveney.

Mr Carthy's remarks about Mr Harris relates to an allegation in circulation that Mr O'Donovan set up a sting operation to establish if a Cabinet minister leaked details of the appointment which was initially made at a meeting of the Cabinet on July 28 before Ms Zappone later withdrew.

Allegations emerged last month that the junior minister attempted to set up his senior colleague by pretending to be on a radio station talking about the Katherine Zappone controversy to see if the other minister would tell a journalist. There was some criticism of the alleged sting at the Fine Gael think-in earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Mr Carthy told the Dáil Mr Coveney's account of the Zappone appointment meant "either he is a very bad communicator or Katherine Zappone is a dope."

"A former cabinet minister wanted a job that would get her access in the UN and her Fine Gael friends bent over backwards to make it happen," the Cavan-Monaghan TD said.

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During the Dáil debate, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that TDs were being asked to accept that appointing Zappone was "a gross abuse of office" but argued this was "manifestly not the case".

Mr Martin told TDs the Zappone controversy was a "perfectly legitimate issue of public concern" and that the appointment was "handled carelessly". He said Mr Coveney was "acting in good faith" when he deleted text messages related to official business, including the appointment of Ms Zappone.l

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Coveney tried to make up a job for a former cabinet colleague and tried to sell "a cock-and-bull story" to the Oireachtas.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said his colleague was "diligent, knowledgeable, sincere and loyal". He accused Sinn Féin of using "grubby money" and running an "international centre of excellence" when it comes to cronyism.

Sinn Féin TDs could be heard shouting "bulls**t" as Mr Varadkar made the remarks.

The Government motion of confidence in Mr Coveney, tabled in response to the motion of no-confidence, was won by 92 to 59 votes.

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