One of the most idiosyncratic stories to emerge from the coalition in Dublin has concluded with Katherine Zappone’s deciding not to take up the role of special envoy on freedom of expression. It’s subject of a leader in The Irish Times.
Appointing a part-time special envoy at the United Nations ought to be a difficult thing to mess up. Yet through a sequence of basic political errors and a botched response when the controversy ignited, it quickly became clear that the former minister’s withdrawal would be the episode’s inevitable conclusion.
It outlines the bones of the story:
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney brought the plan to appoint Zappone to this newly-created position to Cabinet last week without informing Taoiseach Micheál Martin in advance – a breach of protocol. At best it looked like an oversight, at worst that Fine Gael was “pulling a fast one”, as one former Fianna Fáil minister put it.
Certainly it did not reflect well on the political instincts of Coveney or his advisers. But instead of tamping down the row with a full account of the role and Zappone’s appointment to it, the Government went to ground. What little explanation emerged was partial and at times contradictory.
What seems to have tipped the scales was news that Ms Zappone had held an outdoor party six days before the appointment, and among the guests was Tanaiste and former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The suspicion, given the closeness of the two, throughout this controversy has been that the idea came from the Tanaiste, rather than the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Certainly, the failure to alert the Taoiseach lands with him too.
Too much thinking about what will float with the public via WhatsApp, and too little about what’s good for the country. Splitting the government struggling to right the ship in face of major crises in health and housing.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty