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Taoiseach was not aware of Zappone appointment before Cabinet meeting

Updated at 16:43

The Taoiseach has denied that he knew about the Katherine Zappone appointment before it was raised at Cabinet.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar this morning told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the memo had been with the Taoiseach's office the day before the controversy broke.

However, in a statement issued this afternoon, the Taoiseach's spokesperson contradicted this as the Irish Examiner reports.

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“The Taoiseach was not informed of the name proposed for the appointment of a UN Special Envoy before Cabinet.

“Nor was he alerted at the leaders' meeting the evening before the Cabinet, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs have apologised for this.

“The first time the Taoiseach was aware that Katherine Zappone was being nominated for a role was at the Cabinet meeting, once the memo was distributed.

“An email from the secretary-general of DFA to the secretary-general in the Department of Taoiseach was sent at 9.24pm on the night before Cabinet.

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Abandoned appointment

“This was not sent to anyone else in the Department until the following morning, when it was sent to the Government Secretariat just before Cabinet.”

Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in Trim today, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that he had spoken to Ms Zappone last week ahead of his releasing a statement on a conversation the two had had prior to her abandoned appointment as UN Special Envoy on Freedom of Expression.

Earlier today Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath also flatly contradicted Leo Varadkar’s claim that a memo naming Katherine Zappone was on the Taoiseach's desk the day before Cabinet.

Mr Varadkar told RTÉ's Morning Ireland the Office of the Taoiseach was given a memo on the matter “with the name of Katherine Zappone” the day before the Cabinet meeting at which the appointment was announced.

However, speaking in Cork this morning, Mr McGrath said Ms Zappone's name was not in the memo, stating: “In relation to the issue of the memo being with the Department of An Taoiseach before the Cabinet meeting, it is not the case that the name of the person proposed for appointment was in that memo."

Under the arm memo

The Minister added: “This was, in effect, an under the arm memo, which means it's brought to Cabinet the morning of the Cabinet meeting itself, and that is the first time that the name of Katherine Zappone was shared with the Taoiseach and with all of the other Cabinet colleagues."

The circumstances surrounding Ms Zappone's appointment has led to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney facing a vote of no-confidence later this week after he was accused of "cronyism" by Opposition TDs.

At the Fine Gael think-in which began on Monday in Trim, Co Meath, both Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar apologised to their party for the controversy.

The Taoiseach has said the Fianna Fáil party whip will be enforced for the no-confidence vote, with TDs who fail to oppose the motion risking suspension.

Speaking ahead of the Green Party's think-in on Monday, Eamon Ryan said the Green Party will also back Mr Coveney in the vote.

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