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'Full review' Taoiseach says lessons need to be learned from Katherine Zappone appointment

"What the Tánaiste does in his private time is a matter for the Tánaiste"


Micheál Martin

Micheál Martin

Micheál Martin

Lessons need to be learned in relation to the controversy which occurred when former Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone was appointed as a UN special envoy for the Government, the Taoiseach has warned.

Speaking during a visit to Cobh, Co Cork Micheál Martin stressed that transparency was vital in the future.

He declared as “important” a move by the Department of Foreign Affairs to release a file of documents later today relating to the proposed appointment.

The file will be released ahead of a second appearance of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney at the committee tomorrow over what chair Charlie Flanagan described as “inconsistencies” in statements he made over the matter.

"The documentation will be put out there this afternoon, it’s my understanding, by the Department of Foreign Affairs. I think that’s important,” Mr Martin said.

“I think it’s important that we have transparency in relation to this issue and I also think it’s important that we in government learn lessons from this also."

The Taoiseach said there needs to be a "full review of the role of envoys in to the future."

"The added value they may or may not bring to certain situations,” he said.

“I think the Department of Foreign Affairs should conduct a full review in relation to that and that if there are to be any other further appointments into the future that they would be done by open public competition.

“These are lessons we have to learn from this particular episode.

“I think the transparency will flow hopefully from what’s published today.

“The Minister himself is going before the Oireachtas committee tomorrow to answer questions in a comprehensive way."

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When asked if the release of documents would put the controversy to bed the Taoiseach said he “couldn't speak on behalf of the Opposition and the Opposition may take a view one way or the other."

"But I can give my view on it in terms of a government perspective and we are going to learn lessons from this and we are going to make certain changes in relation to how we do this into the future. But I do believe that we need a sense of perspective in relation to this,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach refused to be drawn on the attendance of Tánaiste, Leo Vardakar, at a music festival in the UK over the weekend.

“What the Tánaiste does in his private time is a matter for the Tánaiste,” Mr Martin said.

"I don’t intend to comment one way or the other in relation to that or in relation to any other individual who have their private time to themselves.

“I’ve made my position clear on it.

“I have a particular view of these things and my view is that the Tánaiste, in his private time, is entitled to do in his private time - and that’s it. It’s a matter for him. I’m not commenting any further.

“I said last Saturday that we need to keep this in perspective.

“I keep my focus on the substantial issues and challenges that face our people and our country."

He said getting through Covid-19 is the "key challenge" facing the country.

"Lifting restrictions on an ongoing basis is something that I am very focused on, whilst watching the behaviour of the disease the incidence levels of the disease,” Mr Martin said.

“This is a very important month for us in respect of Covid-19, the schools have reopened how will the Delta variant fare in that context.

“So that’s my big focus, notwithstanding the need for transparency on these issues.

“I think we need to provide that, we need to learn lessons from it and take on board but others may have to say as well."

Meanwhile, when asked about disgruntled employers claiming they can't recuit staff because of the extension of the Covid PUP payment the Taoiseach said it was worth noting the dramatic reduction in persons on the payment.

"We have extended it gradually but it is reducing in terms of the payment and there will be more coming off the PUP payment. Very significant numbers have come off the PUP in the last number of months as we have reopened retail and personal services/construction,” he said.

“The numbers have come way down actually and they will continue to come down as we reopen society. What we are doing in respect of live entertainment, is that people working in the entertainment industry is that the Department of Social Protection will engage with the Department of Tourism and Minister Heather Humphreys and [Arts Minister] Catherine Martin will in terms of what we can do to specifically support sectors within entertainment or live music and the arts who may not be able to reopen immediately as PUP is wound down.

“PUP has been wound down significantly now and I think we are doing it in a balanced, gradual way. I think that has worked for us overall as a society. Remember we have brought people with us through a very challenging period since the onset of the pandemic and it is important that we continue to do.”

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