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02nd Sep 2021

Leo Varadkar says Zappone controversy not causing distraction for Government

Stephen Porzio

Varadkar Zappone Distraction

“Certainly nobody in government is distracted anyway from the business of government.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the ongoing controversy regarding former minister Katherine Zappone’s appointment to the role of UN special envoy for freedom of opinion and expression was not causing a distraction for government.

Earlier on Thursday, Varadkar issued an apology after it was revealed that texts he released between him and Zappone were not disclosed when requested earlier by journalists under Freedom of Information (FOI) law.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin to acknowledge the content of the text messages released by Varadkar between himself, Zappone and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

Last year, Cowen was sacked as Minister for Agriculture by the Taoiseach following controversy over a four-year-old drink-driving ban.

Asked on RTÉ Morning Ireland if Fine Gael ministers were getting away with breaches at Cabinet that Fianna Fáil ministers were having to resign for, Cowen replied: “That is something that is being said within our organisation and indeed by members of the public.

“During the course of the issues concerning the matter and the incident for which I was held responsible, I was told that this issue was dominating the public domain and was getting in the way of government business. Some would argue that this is getting in the way of very difficult government business too.

“I think the Taoiseach needs to address the issue and the content of the texts that we’ve heard about yesterday.”

Image via Sasko Lazarov /

Speaking to reporters later on Thursday, Varadkar said that while the issue was “certainly a shadow”, he believed it wasn’t “overshadowing” what he described as a “really important day for government” whereby the government will launch its new housing plan titled Housing for All.

“Bear in mind, the real big news stories of this week are the government’s Covid plan which we published only yesterday and the government’s Housing for All plan which we’re going to publish today.

“We’re focusing as a government on Covid, on housing, on the big challenges at hand. Certainly nobody in government is distracted anyway from the business of government.”

On the text controversy and Zappone’s appointment – which she later did not accept – Varadkar said he believes he has “dealt with this matter”.

“I set out very clearly what my involvement was in this appointment which of course did not take place at the end of the day and I published all the records that I have which I believe verify my account.

“I was only in contact with Simon Coveney on one occasion about this matter and it was essentially the query that you’ve seen.

“And as you can see from the text message, he informed me that a memo would go to cabinet. That is the normal way these are done.

“But what didn’t happen and what should have happened and I’ve acknowledged this some weeks ago, what should have happened is either he or I should have flagged this appointment to Minister Ryan and to the Taoiseach because it was potentially politically sensitive”.

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