Apart from Minister Simon Coveney’s stumbling over the precise timeline that led to Katharine Zappone’s brief stint as Special Envoy at the United Nations, the most interesting part of Tuesday’s Committee hearing into the appointment was the job spec as detailed by the Minister and his Department General Secretary Niall Burgess.
Coveney did appear to struggle somewhat when Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowan asked to him to explain his exchange with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar prior to the date when the Minister said he had decided to appoint Zappone. Varadkar had told Coveney that he was going to meet Zappone and “was there anything he (Varadkar) should know” about any appointment to the proposed position.
While she was appointed as Special Envoy to the United Nations for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, it is clear that the main focus of that job was to be issues related to LGBT+.
Fair enough, that is an issue in states where gay people are subject to punitive measures including imprisonment and execution, but it hardly encompasses the range of what might come under the protection of freedom of expression, or human rights in general.
Indeed, as we have seen this week in Scotland, the privileging of one of the components of the putative LGBT+ alliance, namely the T one, is anything but conducive to the protection of free expression and opinion, including the freedoms that ought to be legally due to the L and G components of the Rainbow as well as everyone else to state plain truths without losing ones job or even ending up in court.
Furthermore, towards the end of the Committee hearing, Minister Coveney stated that initially they were going to appoint an envoy with sole focus on LGBT+ rights. Earlier, Burgess had said that this had been inspired by the Biden administration’s appointment of such an envoy, and that they felt that “more resources” needed to be devoted to this aspect.
It would appear to be case then that the job spec was only formally broadened to include Freedom of Opinion and Expression, but that the focus was to largely remain on LGBT+.
Indeed, that is Zappone’s main area of interest, and she has no particular expertise nor professional experience in anything related to the protection of free speech and expression.
In the context of Ireland’s membership of the UN Security Council and its imminent succession to the chair of that august body, surely there are international human rights issues that might more merit a special envoy? Particularly as Ireland could use its position to advance particular issues of concerns.
Among the human rights that Ireland might highlight are the genocide of the Uyghurs in China, the onslaught against Christians in parts of Asia and Africa, the appalling levels of sexual crime against women and girls in many parts of the developing world, slavery and human trafficking and others. Gay people are not immune to becoming victims of any of the above crimes, and yet the unthinking virtue signalling of the liberal west feels that it is de rigueur to separate LGBT+ off as a cause unique in its own right.
It is also clear that what put Coveney and his confreres in mind of asking Zappone was that he had spoken to her following the victory of Joe Biden in last year’s American Presidential election. A campaign in which Zappone played a part, and one can imagine which side Coveney and probably all but a handful of Dáil Deputies were also on.
It was this conversation or conversations that probably put Zappone in mind as he discerned there to be a “push back against human rights” and especially LGBT+ rights, in “certain states.” By which he obviously meant fellow EU states Hungary and Poland. Despite the fact that neither state has implemented legal measures against gay people.
Minister Coveney promised to revisit the possible appointment of another envoy, and the job spec that goes with the position. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the Committee might at that stage actually talk about the broader issue of human rights in the world.
Fine Gael TD David Stanton did refer to this, and while it is understandable that the focus was on the politicking around Zappone’s appointment and really irrelevant issues as to how much she would be paid, the real focus ought to be on why a job was created that was obviously designed to be filled by an activist such as herself. That is the real issue, not her personal competence or who her chums are.
Although as Senator Craughwell stated, there is also no getting away from the fact that the public perception is that “If you’re in the club you’ll be looked after.” If not, you won’t. and that applies as much now in these days of Woke enlightenment as it ever did when a Minister’s nephew was appointed as a Warble Fly inspector in Longford.