Katherine Zappone confirms she will not accept Special Envoy appointment; fails to address Merrion Hotel function
"It is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself."
Katherine Zappone has confirmed that she will not accept the appointment as Special Envoy on freedom of opinion and expression in a statement that failed to address a 50-person function held days before the announcement of the appointment.
Zappone said in a statement on Wednesday that she "decided not to accept" the role, adding that she believed the "criticism of the appointment process" had "impacted the legitimacy" of the position.
"I am honoured to have been appointed by the Government to be the Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, it is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself," she said.
"A Special Envoy role can only be of real value to Ireland and to the global community if the appointment is acceptable to all parties.
"For this reason, I have decided not to accept this appointment, and I have communicated my decision to the Minister for Foreign Affairs."
Zappone issued the statement on the same day it was reported that she hosted a private outdoor function attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and around 50 other people, just days before the appointment, which has generated a significant degree of controversy since, not least as it was made without the knowledge of Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The Irish Independent said the event, which took place on Wednesday, 21 July, was attended by friends of Zappone, as well as civil servants and politicians, including the Tánaiste.
Fáilte Ireland’s guidelines for reopening hotels and guesthouses state that “organised events, indoor and outdoor, are not permitted” unless they are weddings or “non-social meetings, training and educational programmes considered essential to the operation of a business”.
In a brief statement issued to RTÉ News on the function on Wednesday, Zappone said: “Please contact the Merrion Hotel for their statement regarding compliance with government Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines for my private event.”
The Merrion Hotel had earlier issued a statement to the Irish Independent, saying it had adhered to public health guidelines at all times throughout the event.
“Government regulations at the time allowed for outdoor events of up to 200 people, and the definition of that includes social events," the statement read.
"This upper limit still applies, except now indoor events in hotels are excluded per government guidelines published by Fáilte Ireland.”