Leo Varadkar apologises for text message controversy, says he was on annual leave and wasn't contacted
"We are, of course, sorry this happened."
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has issued an apology after texts between him and former Minister Katherine Zappone were not disclosed when requested by journalists under Freedom of Information (FOI) law.
The Department of the Tánaiste had responded to an FOI request on 23 August stating that there were no messages exchanged with Zappone in relation to the controversial 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.
Interestingly, the Tánaiste’s department previously responded to an FOI request from myself and clearly stated there was no records of any texts between Leo Varadkar and Katherine Zappone about the Merrion event, which we now know was not the case pic.twitter.com/BIilYEQqHw
— Jack Power (@jackpowerIT) September 1, 2021
The department 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.
— Paul Cunningham (@RTENewsPaulC) September 1, 2021
On Thursday morning, Varadkar issued a statement of apology, saying he was on annual leave at the time the FOI request came in and that no one contacted him to check his phone for records.
It read: "I have looked into this with my Department. The relevant FOI officer who received the request checked all emails and letters and found no records.
"I was on annual leave at the time the decision was released and I wasn't contacted to check my phone for records."
He said procedures will be put in place to prevent this from happening again and that the relevant records are being sent to journalists.
"We are, of course, sorry this happened," he added.
The messages between Varadkar and Zappone were exchanged in the week leading up to the Merrion Hotel event in July and contained communications about Zappone's appointment to the role of UN special envoy for freedom of opinion and expression.
Following the controversy surrounding the event and the appointment, Zappone has since confirmed that she would not accept the appointment to the role.
Main Image via Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie