Credit: Dept of Children via Flickr under Licence CC BY 2.0

A Zappone for all seasons, but no invite for Micheál

Photo Credit: Dept of Children via flickr under CC licence

Perhaps An Taoiseach Micheál Martin now understands what Groucho Marx meant when he said that he would not want to be a member of a club that would have him as a member.

I am thinking here in the context of a dinner reportedly hosted by for former Minister, now newly appointed Special Envoy for Free Expression, Katharine Zappone  which was held at Dublin’s Merrion Hotel on July 21.

Her new job was announced at a Cabinet meeting last week without the prior knowledge of An Taoiseach and apparently after Zappone had selflessly suggested to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that, sure, seeing as she would be over on the other side of the Atlantic anyway, that maybe she might as well get some little job to keep her occupied for a few hours a week. Which is all it will be anyway – but quality hours you may be certain.

All of those glad tidings for Zappone came after the soirée in the Merrion Hotel which reports suggest may have been in breach of the guidelines on outdoor dining, According to the Sunday World, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar did check with both Zappone and the hotel whether the gathering was within the guidelines and told Fine Gael senators later that evening that it had been.

What is perhaps more interesting is that Varadkar’s social encounter with the former Minister for Children came just days before he announced, without the foreknowledge of his nominal Cabinet boss, Micheál Martin, that Zappone had been appointed.

No doubt the great unwashed, wondering what they might or might not be allowed to do from day to day, and even whether their jobs and business and their own landmark social events might be permitted, get the wrong impression of such things.

But to play the Devil’s Advocate, it would seem that some of the Paddies and Patsies rubbing their noses against the glass pane that separates the great and the good from ourselves, might have reason to question how business gets done here.

Questions about how those with power can golf, travel, hire overseas help, picnic and party on down through the Great Lockdown. And more with regard to the general observation that it seems to be that if you are part of the bien pensant liberal elite that you get to do a lot of what you please, and that plum taxpayer sinecures are yours for the asking if you just happen to be at the right party.

Which An Taoiseach wasn’t. Maybe he is not cool enough to be asked? Fianna Fáil have in fairness done everything in their power to shed the image of themselves as revanchist Catholic boggers and north Dublin howyas, but perhaps the house training has not been completed

Katharine Zappone’s connections have not done her any harm. From relative obscurity she came to be one of the most powerful NGO nabobs in the country, and, despite never being in any political party, was first appointed to the Seanad in 2011, and then appointed Minister for Children in 2016 despite having barely scraped a seat in Dublin South West as an independent with just 6.6% of the vote. She was deeply unpopular as Minister for Children and lost her seat in February 2020 when her vote fell to just 5.5%

In all her meteoric rise through the liberal firmament, she rubbed shoulders with all of the right people, an instinct she has obviously not lost. She obviously failed to make the same connection to the great unwashed of sketchy places like Tallaght who mostly rejected her candidacy as soon as possible.

Although Zappone was never in any particular party, she was really in all of them, as she epitomises the shallow liberalism that defines all of them from Fine Gael to People Before Profit. If her political legacy might be defined, then look at Senator Lynn Ruane who like Zappone could really be a member of FG. FF. Sinn Féin, Labour, Social Democrats, Greens or People Before Profit.

The NGO which Zappone created, An Cosán, is, of course, thriving. When she was Minister for Children, TUSLA, which was under her Department’s tutelage, granted An Cosán €521,958. That represented the biggest taxpayer contribution of a total of €1.7 million in state funding. in 2018. That increased to €2.1 million in the last reported, year 2019. In common with all such self-described “voluntary” and “charitable” NGOs, An Cosán raises trivial sums of money through its own fundraising. Just €81,334 in 2019, in fact.

This evening, RTÉ will be celebrating its part in legalising abortion. Katharine Zappone played a leading role in the campaign to get rid of the constitutional protection of the unborn, as did many of the organisations with which she was associated. All of them, far from being some penurious “grassroots” activist groups, were replete with state money. Millions of it.

The liberal gravy train rolls on. The fact that most of the Cabinet and none of the mainstream media even considered the furore that the Zappone appointment might give rise to speaks volumes for where their heads are at. The only story it seems that interests them is the obvious disrespect shown to Micheál Martin. And the only reason he was not consulted is that there is no reason why Fianna Fáil in its current state could possibly object to any cossetting of the people they desperately want to like them.


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