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01st Sep 2021

Department of the Tánaiste said there were no records of messages with Zappone in August

Clara Kelly

On 23 August they said messages between Varadkar and Zappone in relation to the Merrion event did “not exist” or “could not be found”.

The Department of the Tánaiste responded to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on 23 August stating that there were no messages exchanged with Katherine Zappone in relation to the Merrion Hotel event in July.

The FOI decision, shared by Irish Times Journalist Jack Power on Wednesday, stated the Department found that no records existed following “detailed discussions” with staff in the Tánaiste’s office.

They added that the record concerned could either “not be found” or “does not exist”.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar shared screenshots of messages between himself and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as well as former minister Katherine Zappone on Wednesday.

The messages were from the week leading up to the Merrion Hotel event which hit headlines last month and contained communications about Zappone’s appointment to the role of UN special envoy for freedom of opinion and expression.

The messages were shared with RTÉ’s Political Correspondent Paul Cunningham on Wednesday and reveal the Tánaiste was contacted by Zappone on 16 July as she was visiting Dublin when she mentioned the UN role to Varadkar.

During the exchange with Zappone, Varadkar also asked whether or not the event at the hotel terrace was “definitely legal”, before adding that it was “probably okay.”

Zappone replied that the Merrion confirmed it was compliant.

Varadkar added in a statement to RTÉ on Wednesday that he spoke briefly with Zappone about the role at the Merrion event, saying that he acknowledges that he should have flagged the interaction with Taoiseach Micheal Martin and has since apologised.

Last month it was reported that an event at Merrion hotel on 30 July was attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and around 50 other people, just days before the appointment of Zappone to the UN envoy role.

The event generated a significant degree of controversy since, not least as it was made without the knowledge of Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Zappone has since confirmed that she would not accept the appointment to the role.

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