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Kat got your tongue? Katherine Zappone will be asked to answer questions over UN role in Oireachtas

Former Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is to be asked to appear before Oireachtas committee


Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)

Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)

Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)

Former Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is to be asked to appear before an Oireachtas committee over the controversy surrounding the Government's botched attempt to appoint her as a UN special envoy.

TDs and Senators on the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee agreed on Wednesday morning to invite Ms Zappone, who is based in New York, to appear before them in the coming weeks.

The committee is examining the attempts to appoint the former Independent TD as a UN special envoy for freedom of expression in July. It has already held two hearings with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney who has been forced to apologise over his handling of the matter.

Two Fine Gael members of the committee, Senator Joe O’Reilly and backbencher David Stanton, spoke against the move but there was ultimately no opposition to a proposal from committee chair Charlie Flanagan, a Fine Gael TD, to invite Ms Zappone before it.

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The committee will also seek a hearing with the Department of the Taoiseach secretary general Martin Fraser to clarify when the Taoiseach was told of the proposal to appoint Ms Zappone.

Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell and Fianna Fáil Senator Diarmuid Wilson both strongly argued at the private committee meeting that they needed to hear from Mr Fraser.

It comes in the wake of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar disclosing this week that the Taoiseach’s office was told about the proposal to appoint Ms Zappone the day before the Cabinet meeting in late July where Micheál Martin was said to have been “blindsided” by the appointment.

Zappone later withdrew her name following controversy over a private party at the Merrion Hotel which was attended by Mr Varadkar.

Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and Fianna Fáil all spoke in favour of inviting Ms Zappone before the committee. Sinn Féin TD John Brady said there had been an attempt to “throw Katherine Zappone under the bus” by Mr Coveney at last week’s meeting.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said Ms Zappone should be given the opportunity to "set the record straight" and explain the discrepancy between her text message to Mr Coveney last March about a job offer, and Mr Coveney’s insistence to the committee last week that there was no offer at that stage.

Sinn Féin TD Sorca Clarke said it would be “exceptional bad manners” not to allow Ms Zappone to give her views on the issue to the committee.

Mr Brady also said the committee needed to follow up on the leaking of Mr Coveney’s letter clarifying his evidence in his first session with TDs and Senators to the media before it was sent to committee members earlier this month.

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Mr Flanagan denied that either he or Oireachtas officials were involved in the leak and said he would write to the Department of Foreign Affairs to express concern over the matter.

Mr Craughwell also pushed for the committee to examine the issue of the security of phones given to ministers.

The committee agreed to write to Mr Coveney again to seek clarity on the circumstances surrounding the hacking of his phone.

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