Zappone Told About Envoy Role 4 Months Earlier Then Previously Thought

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Left to Right: Katherine Zappone - Simon Coveney

Katherine Zappone had thanked Simon Coveney as far back as March for offering her a role to represent Ireland, newly released text messages now show.

On Thursday, March 4th, a text from Ms. Zappone to Minister Coveney revealed her gratitude.

Hi Simon. Thank you so so much for offering me this incredible opportunity. It will be such a privilege, and I will be so proud to serve Ireland again.

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I think the time is really ripe for a change to. Could you let me know time period appointment is for, and what are the next steps. And you know, I am working with UN FPA until mid or end of June.

Thank you again so much Simon, especially when you have so much on your plate. I spoke with Pascal (sic) yesterday. Warmest Katherine,” Ms Zappone texted.

In April, Ms Zappone texted Mr Coveney: “Simon, see you have a lot on your plate as always, have heard in the background but the department may be ready to discuss proposals with you for my work. Look forward to hearing from you. K.”

Then on May 4th, she texted again: “Hi Simon. Hope all as well. Any news Yes, question mark, you had mentioned June a start time. Thanks K“.

Ms Zappone told the Department of Foreign Affairs that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was “really excited” about her appointment as UN Special Envoy five days before the Taoiseach was informed about the role.

In an email, released by the Department of Foreign Affairs, between Ms Zappone and the Department’s secretary-general Niall Burgess, Ms Zappone confirmed she had sent a text to Mr Coveney about the timeframe of her new role and the details of the job.

The appointment of Ms Zappone as a UN special envoy — a position that was never publicly advertised — has dogged the government for weeks. Ms Zappone ultimately turned down the position amid the public backlash.

Documents show the remit of the role was redrawn following a meeting between Mr Burgess and Ms Zappone.

The email is dated July 22, five days before the appointment was brought to Cabinet, leaving the Taoiseach “blindsided“.

Ms Zappone writes: “Dear Niall, yes, I so enjoyed meeting you in person too. The revised note captures everything so well of our collective efforts. I saw the Tánsiste (sic) last eve, and he’s really excited about this too.

“It’s ready to go to the Minister, I think.

I did text him re the timeframe, as discussed. I promise you, Niall, that I will do my best to ensure that this will be an important legacy piece of your time in leadership.”

Ms Zappone told Mr Burgess in text messages that she and Mr Coveney had “agreed a way forward” the day after the news of her appointment broke.

Another text from Mr Burgess to Mr Coveney shows that the Minister was not told of Ms Zappone’s proposed salary by Mr Burgess of around €15,000 a year until after Cabinet had approved her appointment.

Text messages exchanged Department of Foreign Affairs secretary-general Niall Burgess and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney regarding Katherine Zappone's appointment as a UN special envoy.Text messages exchanged Department of Foreign Affairs secretary-general Niall Burgess and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney show that Ms Zappone’s former adviser Jerry O’Connor told the Department that she was “doing some work with Dept of Foreign Affairs on LGBTI issues”.

Paul Sheahan from the Department responded to an email to say that: “To the best of my knowledge, the LGBT+ Staff Network has not engaged with Minister Zappone, certainly not during my time on the Committee.”

In a press statement, Mr Coveney said all documents relating to the appointment process had now been released and, in his view, future appointments should be made by a public open competition.

My Department has today brought forward the publication of all documentation on the appointment of a Special Envoy for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The files show extensive consideration of the envoy position as well as a complete timeline ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.

I am sorry that this appointment has caused such controversy for the Government. I have apologised to the Taoiseach for the failings on my part in relation to this issue and I have no hesitation in doing so again.

Finally, a review of envoy positions is ongoing in the Department, however, I agree with the Taoiseach’s call for all future appointments to be made by open public competition.”