“One may smile and smile, and be a villain”. Shakespeare warned us. Simon Coveney has a nice smile; so too does Pascal O’Donohoe. Catherine Zappone has a smile that could kill at fifty paces. All three have got bogged down in an affair that shouldn’t have happened and which has caused some serious collateral damage and looks like causing more.
It all started with a belated going-away gift. Catherine Zappone sent word to Simon Coveney that she was really grateful to him for the “incredible opportunity” of a little jobeen as UN special envoy. There was even a going-away bash in the Merrion Hotel, featuring a number of Ireland’s biggest political beasts. When the opposition began questioning as to when this jobeen had been advertised and what other candidates were considered for it, Micheál Martin said he knew nothing about it and anyway, it was time to press on to other things and would anyone like to see his incredible, amazing, game-changing scheme for building houses?
Not too many, it seemed. But as the Zappone controversy rumbled on, Barry Cowan, former FF Minister, demanded to know why, since the Zappone matter was holding up the work of government, shouldn’t the main player, Simon Coveney, be told by Micheál to step down from his Cabinet post? After all, that’s the excuse Micheál made – holding up normal business – when he booted Barry out of his Cabinet.
Then just when Micheál figured things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Yesterday, it emerged, Zappone had been profuse in her thanks for the jobeen from Simon, a jobeen which didn’t come before the appointments people until months after. Simon Coveney was accused of wiping messages off his phone (“Why? When?” Sinn Féin demanded). It began to look as though, when Simon Coveney said the job was created first and then Zappone was spotted as the ideal person to fill it – when he said that, it actually was the other way round: Zappone expressed interest in a job and shazam! A jobeen at the UN was created for her. What’s more, she kept sending messages enquiring about further details of the jobeen long before she’d actually been appointed to it.
And did I mention that Zappone’s records also drew in Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe, as the man who directed her to Coveney when she told him she’d quite like a little UN jobeen?
Coveney is going to be in a very hot seat today when he faces a committee hungry to hear more. As he takes his seat, no doubt the words of a Social Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs will ring in his ears: “This stinks to high heaven”