Despite Taoiseach Michéal Martin urging everyone to move on from the issue, ZapponeGate (along with Cronygate and Merriongate) shows no sign of slowing down on social media.
In some ways, it’s like a boil being lanced. The anger and frustration felt at the hypocrisy of the chattering classes in regard to the lockdown is evident. We were never in this together. The rich got richer, the elites got bossier, the virtue signalers are having a field day.
Meanwhile small businesses are being decimated, ordinary people can’t access healthcare and older people are becoming paralysed by fear.
Here’s just four of the reasons everyone is still angry at #ZapponeGate
1. There has been no apology for the naked cronyism
Katherine Zappone may have backed away from this plush little number, but no-one is apologising to the Irish people for the rank cronyism or the bare-faced cheek.
The former Minister said she had “decided not to accept the appointment” as Special Envoy – with no mention that she has proposed the unadvertised role herself.
She said on Wednesday that while she was “honoured to have been appointed [sic] by the Government to be the Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression” it was now “clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself.”
“It is my conviction that a special envoy role can only be of real value to Ireland and to the global community if the appointment is acceptable to all parties. For this reason, I have decided not to accept this appointment, and I have communicated my decision to the Minister for Foreign Affairs,” she continued.
The failure to read the public mood is simply breath-taking. No acknowledgment that this was a disastrous idea from start to finish, no acceptance that the whole debacle was the fault of a privileged few, and no apology.
No wonder people are still mad.
And no, Leo Varadkar’s outing on RTÉ News today wasn’t an apology for cronyism. In fact, his ‘expression of regret’ for the attending Merrion Hotel shindig while claiming, in the same breath, that the event “probably wasn’t in breach” of the guidelines is a classic ‘sorry.. not sorry’.
2. Dads can’t go to maternity hospitals but the elite can have parties
Some of the most upset and angry posts on social media have been from those shut out from maternity hospitals because of the Covid restrictions, or from women who have been forced to endure the loss of their baby without the support of loved ones.
As more than one woman wrote: imagine suffering a miscarriage alone in Holles Street, while – literally across the square – Zappone, Varadkar, Bacik and the rest frolicked at their posh party.
Sarah Ryan, who earlier wrote about her miscarriage, made this observation:
It’s infuriating to think that as well as all of the restrictions on us, women are giving birth and losing babies alone in Holles street, but across merrion square, Katherine zappone is having a party with her mates. What a disgrace these people are.
— Sarah Ryan (@sarahcatryan) August 4, 2021
I had a miscarriage, alone, in Holles street during this pandemic, I’m glad that inhumane rule has been sorted so the government can move on to important things like weddings and appointing their mates to made up jobs, oh wait…. #whatajoke #liftmaternityrestrictions
— Sarah Ryan (@sarahcatryan) July 27, 2021
In reply, one woman said that she was currently in hospital with her 2 year old who was “inconsolable that his daddy can’t be here too even though we’re fully vaccinated.”
I’m so sorry to hear this Sarah. Currently in hospital with my 2 yr old who is inconsolable that his daddy can’t be here too even though we’re fully vaccinated. How do you explain that to a 2 yr old? But hey..it’s ok because weddings can have 100 people no questions asked! 😡😡
— @loopielou21 (@loopielou211) July 27, 2021
How do we explain any of this? It makes no sense.
3. It’s just so obvious the rules are for the little people
This flaunting of the rules that us plebs are meant to abide by just keeps happening. It’s not as if this was the first time.
Public appointments are meant to be publicly advertised and open to qualified applicants. Yet State bodies are stuffed with those in the golden circle.
Then there’s the Covid regulations and the persistent and flargrant breaches: GolfGate, RTEGate, MerrionGate. There rarely seems to be any consequences.
As Andrew Kehoe observed this week: a granny is in jail for not wearing a mask – but parties were happening at the Merrion.
Shocking to think there is a pensioner currently in jail for breaking public health guidelines and at the same time our politicians are at parties with 50+ guests.
— Andrew Kehoe (@AndrewKehoe8) August 5, 2021
And remember the opprobrium heaped on students for having a party?
Remember the sanctimony when Limerick students breached Covid-19 guidelines. There were calls for expulsion, Simon Harris said they must face serious consequences and was calling for the Gardaí to get involved. But all that’s expected from the Tánaiste is an apology. Farce #rtept
— Robert Burke (@robertburke84) August 5, 2021
People were baton-charged by Gardai for protesting the lockdown – and for crowding South William Street. Since March 2020, when the first Covid-19 restrictions were introduced, more than 22,000 fixed-charge penalty notices for breaches of the regulations have been issued.
Obviously the 50 members of the golden circle, including socialist Ivana Bacik, who attended Zappone’s party felt safe in the knowledge that no such penalties would apply to them.
In addition, it’s likely a safe bet that a good many of those living up at the Merrion Hotel bash had previously excoriated those who protested the lockdown – or called them ‘far-right’.
They’re a joke, these special, above-the-law, people – but they’re not funny, and no-one is laughing.
4. The Attorney General just made everything worse
The intervention of the Attorney General in the whole sorry affair has been, to put it mildly, surreal.
He was accused of “providing political cover” for those caught up in the scandal when he said it was, in fact, legal to host outdoor events for up to 200 people – despite the government having previously clashed with hospitality and the Catholic Church on a very different interpretation of the regulations.
Couples had been told that only 100 guests were permitted at weddings. Families – and the hospitality sector – were informed that no organised events or multiple table bookings were allowed. Ministers slammed the Catholic Bishops for saying that Communions and Confirmations should go ahead.
But then MerrionGate happened, and suddenly the Attorney General, no less, is out, clarifying that there was no harm in Leo Varadkar, Ivana Bacik and the rest attending Zappone’s party because, actually, 200 people were allowed to gather this way.
How can the political elites think this is helpful? Fáílte Ireland is now rewriting its guidelines. The whole intervention looks like it was designed to protect the same people who think it’s perfectly legitimate to offer a pal a lucrative gig at the UN on request.
The only upside is that people can now book 200 people at an outdoor event and have live music. But no live music is allowed at weddings. The madness continues.
We still don’t know the full guest list for Zappone’s party. We still don’t have clarity on why Coveney thought it was acceptable to offer Zappone an unadvertised position she asked for. And we all know, such as it has so often before, that political elites will continue to apply a different set of rules to themselves as to the people.
That’s why people are still angry. They are right to be.