Cabinet approves changes to special envoy appointment process

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Proposed measures designed to improve the appointment of special envoys have received cabinet nod in the wake of the controversy over the appointment of former minister Catherine Japon.

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Ms Japon’s appointment as UN envoy on freedom of expression sparked a storm of controversy for the government and led to a failed confidence motion in Foreign Minister Simon Coveney earlier this year.

Mr Coveney was forced to apologize for how he handled the fallout from the row, with opposition parties accusing the government of “cronyism” in the former minister’s appointment.


On Tuesday, the cabinet approved the recommendations of a report compiled after reviewing the appointment of special envoys.

These included that the Management Board of the Department of Foreign Affairs should make a recommendation for a special envoy to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, based on what the report called “a valid business case reflecting foreign policy objectives and priorities”.

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The report said, “The Board of Management should consider whether the role can be filled from within the existing skills and expertise of the department or other departments, or requires external expertise, and make recommendations to the minister accordingly. “

The creation of the role of a special envoy would require cabinet approval.

Expression of interest will be sought as part of the appointment process with an evaluation panel to identify the shortlist of candidates.

Appointment of the actual Special Envoy would also require Cabinet approval.

“Irish special envoys have been appointed for several decades before, although the total number of special envoys appointed is relatively small,” the report said.

“Outside the UN Security Council missions of 2000 and 2020, the group has identified eight special envoy roles in this 21-year time frame.”

It said that around 350,000 euros had been spent on special envoys during the past 21 years, an amount that critics described as “minor”.

“The average outlay per special envoy mission (US Congress, United Nations Security Council campaign, Francophone Africa and the Sahel, and the food system) appears modest even at around 87,500 euros over four years,” the report said.


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