Thursday, September 02, 2021

Vivienne Clarke

Former Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen has said that Taoiseach Micheál Martin needs to resolve the controversy over the appointment of Katherine Zappone to a UN special envoy role.

Mr Cowen pointed out that the Taoiseach had been very decisive “on similar matters in the past” and he should now bring the issue to a conclusion so that the Government could focus on “more important matters”.

The Laois-Offaly TD acknowledged that within the Fianna Fáil party concern had been expressed that Fine Gael TDs were “getting away” with issues while Fianna Fáil TDs had resigned or been sacked.

“We need to move on, there is more important Government business,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Government business

Mr Cowen said that when he was sacked from the position of Minister for Agriculture he had been told that the issue was getting in the way of Government business.

When asked if he thought Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney should resign over their involvement in the appointment of Ms Zappone, Mr Cowen said it was up to them to make that decision, but that the Taoiseach needed to address the issue and the content of the texts.

The details contained in the texts which were presented at an Oireachtas Committee meeting this week were “very disconcerting and very disappointing”, he said.

The public backlash had been understandable, and he had thought the issue was resolved when Simon Coveney had apologised, and it had been agreed that there would be greater clarity and transparency in future for such appointments.

But the revelations at the committee indicated that Mr Varadkar and others in Fine Gael had been “a lot more aware” of what was happening. Katherine Zappone had been looking forward to the role when no one was aware of it.


The Taoiseach and the Cabinet should not have been “blindsided”, he added.

It had been very poor judgement to allow the appointment to go through, said Mr Cowen.

It was now up to the three political parties to meet and decide what they now wish to do.

The Taoiseach needed to address the issue and the content of the texts and to act on them. The Government needed to move on to more important issues, if the controversy was getting in the way (of doing Government business) then “people should move on”.

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