Katherine Zappone hosted 50 friends, including Leo Varadkar, at five-star Dublin hotel days before envoy appointment 1 month ago

Katherine Zappone hosted 50 friends, including Leo Varadkar, at five-star Dublin hotel days before envoy appointment

Sinn Féin has labelled it "an attempt to beat the regulations by people who put the regulations in place in the first instance".

Katherine Zappone reportedly hosted a private outdoor function attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and around 50 other people, just days before she was appointed special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression.

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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”.

Fáilte Ireland's guidelines for reopening pubs and restaurants states in the "Organised Outdoor Events/Gatherings" section that a "maximum of 200 attendees can attend the majority of venues. A limit of 500 people is in place for venues with capacity greater than 5,000 with appropriate protective measures in place."

"Organised events" are not permitted under the guidelines for pubs and restaurants with a maximum of six people over the age of 13 allowed at each table.

The Merrion Hotel said 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 hotel said in a statement.

"This upper limit still applies, except now indoor events in hotels are excluded per government guidelines published by Fáilte Ireland.”

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The Irish Independent reported that Varadkar checked the compliance with regulations with both the venue and with Zappone before attending the event.

Speaking on Newstalk on Wednesday, Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Agriculture compared the event to the infamous Golfgate incident in Galway last year.

"I do not see how the circumstances or the rational or the excuses provided change in much way from what happened in the Clifden hotel 12 months ago," Carthy said.

"Essentially, there was an attempt to beat the regulations by people who put the regulations in place in the first instance."

When questioned on the uncertainty of the regulations on the issue, Carthy said that he never would have envisaged an event of this type thing place currently and that regardless of the wording of the regulations, it breached "the spirit" of the guidelines.

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He added: "I was part of quite a number of debates in the Dáil and many became heated. I never envisaged for a second that the regulations would have allowed events of this nature to take place, even outdoor, because if they did I can tell you that there are GAA clubs, there are local sporting organisations or local charitable organisations the length and breadth of the country that have been starved of mechanisms by which to raise money.

"If they thought for a second that they were able to organise these events where you could seat people in tables of six even in an outdoor area, those type of events would have been taking place.

"So it was clearly, whatever about the nuances of the text of the law and/or the regulations themselves, there was clearly a view that was broad in terms of the general public that these type of events were not happening and were not taking place.

"I think most people who read the [Irish Independent] article this morning would be of the view that this breached absolutely the spirit of the guidelines... and there was almost a smart aleck way of trying to beat the regulations."

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The Government’s controversial appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone as a special envoy at the United Nations has made headlines in recent days.

The role, which was not publicly advertised, is newly created and Zappone's appointment was made without the knowledge of Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is understood to have made the appointment to the taxpayer-funded position, before bringing it to Cabinet for approval.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the appointment will provide “enhanced capacity for engagement on Irish human rights priorities”.

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