Republic of Ireland news

Freedom of information law needs ‘refresh' after Zappone row, Leo Varadkar says

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Dominic McGrath, PA

Leo Varadkar has said that there should be a “refresh” of the Republic of Ireland’s freedom of information law in the wake of the Katherine Zappone controversy.

The Tanaiste also said today that his party would emerge united after a difficult few weeks and that he saw himself leading his party into the next general election.

Mr Varadkar accepted that mistakes had been made in the handling of the row over the former minister’s short-lived appointment to a special envoy role.

Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in in Trim in Co Meath, Mr Varadkar said that the “world has moved on” since the last update of the Irish freedom of information law several years ago.

“I don’t think it was refreshed adequately.”

“I think we’re going to need to do a review and refresh of the freedom of information act,” Mr Varadkar said.

Questions have been asked about the government’s handling of freedom of information requests, after Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney admitted to having deleted text messages he exchanged with Mr Varadkar from his phone before Freedom of Information requests were submitted by journalists.

A series of requests seeking copies of correspondence between the pair were made by reporters and politicians after the appointment of Ms Zappone to the UN special envoy role was agreed by Cabinet in July.

A Sinn Féin no-confidence motion in Mr Coveney is set to come before the Dail in the coming days.

Mr Varadkar said that he had apologised to the Taoiseach Micheal Martin about his role in the appointment of Ms Zappone, but insisted that the coalition was still working.

“I know something about making coalitions work,” the former taoiseach said.

He acknowledged that it had been a difficult few weeks for his party.

“Fine Gael hasn’t been at its best, hasn’t been at its most competent or sharpest, for the last couple of weeks or months,” Mr Varadkar said.

Responding to a question about his attendance at a festival in London, which drew criticism from the music industry, he told RTÉ radio that he understood why some people were angry.

“The view that I took was that two days later, and it was only two days later, concerts, conferences, exhibitions, big matches, big events in Ireland, were allowed. And I was one of the people who made sure that we had the reopening plan in place for the event sector.”

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