Latest revelations at Foreign Affairs Committee 'raise more questions than they answer' - Mairéad Farrell TD, Sorca Clarke TD
Sinn Féin TDs Mairéad Farrell and Sorca Clarke have said that Minister Coveney’s appearance before the Committee on Foreign Affairs this morning has raised "more questions than it answered".
Minister Coveney was appearing before the committee again to address inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the previous accounts he has given related to the aborted UN appointment of Katherine Zappone.
Teachta Clarke, who sits on the Committee, questioned Minister Coveney over his assertion that the job wasn't made for Zappone, when the documents released yesterday show she wrote the specification, influenced the duration, and submitted her own brief.
The Longford-Westmeath TD also questioned why Katherine Zappone was lobbying the Secretary General of his department from a company, of which she was previously director and shareholder, despite this company having been struck off in 2017.
Teachta Clarke said:
"Katherine Zappone uses a company, which no longer has a legal existence, to send the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs lobbying emails for this position. She basically wrote the job description. All of this seems highly unusual.
"I also take issue with the Minister use of the Zappone’s campaigning on LGBT issues as a mudguard to protect their highly questionable actions, and to try frame rightful criticism of these actions, as tantamount to homophobia or anti-trans sentiment.
"This is the kind of cynical weaponisation of these causes, which in actuality undermines their very nature, which Fine Gael so frequently reach for as a line of defence. I think it’s appalling."
Teachta Farrell said:
"The very notion that this government has maintained a high level of public standards and ethics, or even an acceptable one, is now firmly in the bin.
"The events of the last number of weeks and the drip feeding of information until forced to a full disclosure as a result of an FOI request, has once again highlighted the vital role of FOI.
"The need for the strengthening of the FOI Act including sanctions for breaching the Act has surely come to light too.
Legitimate questions have also been raised with regard to lobbying by a former Minister to current Ministers regarding the creation and appointment process in this role.
"Minister Coveney insisting that incessant text messaging, contacting of various Ministers, the Tánaiste and Department Officials does not constituent lobbying is not only mind boggling, but also deeply worrying.
"It is high time that the nonchalant attitude towards jobs for the boys be rid from our political system.
"His personal view that this didn’t constitute lobbying is completely lacking in credibility given the last year’s scandal when former Junior Finance Minster Michael D’Arcy attempted to breach the cooling off period by joining the lobbying organisation for the Irish Funds industry.
"Why didn’t he check with the SIPO, as this would have absolutely been the most obvious thing to do?
"There was a time when Fine Gael used to pride themselves on the fact that they weren’t tarnished with the same level of malfeasance that Fianna Fáil were.
"When they took power after the last crash they said it would herald a ‘new politics’. But that now seems like a long time ago.
"The old politics was the new politics. Fine Gael has been in power too long and standards have fallen off a cliff.
"In Q3 and Q4 of this year the Dáil will be dealing with matters related to the likes of FOI, lobbying, Protected Disclosures, the Standards Commission (SIPO), and so on. It’s imperative we don’t allow this opportunity to rectify these clear problems in our political system pass us by."