There is something breath-taking about the arrogance it took for Simon Coveney to appoint Katherine Zappone as Special Envoy For Freedom Of Expression And Opinion. For starters what the hell does that job title mean ? She has so far refused to say. Coveney blindsided the Taoiseach when he announced the appointment at Cabinet. The Taoiseach should have called a halt to this obscene appointment immediately. Leo Varadkar and Coveney have held high office for too long. Their sense of entitlement is becoming all too visible. Remember here is the Tánaiste who insisted on retaining an Aide de Camp and a Minister who retained his Garda driver and car. However, this latest display will be causing unease in Blue Shirt ranks because the public will not like it. It is cronyism at its worst. And it also borders on the ridiculous – an Envoy For Freedom Of Expression And Opinion for God’s sake. You couldn’t make it up. Right, Zappone did , at about €14,000 plus travel to add on to her ministerial pension. She has done very nicely over the last number of years attached to the Fine Gael flag. The rather unsettling thing about all of this is that it shows the weakness of the Taoiseach. Since the formation of this government, I have felt the Tánaiste has not given the Taoiseach the respect he deserves. In his never-ending desire for publicity he always has to be ahead in the news cycle. This often ends up undermining the Taoiseach. He should respect the office which he has held and to which he is due to return. However, no Taoiseach should accept the kind of behaviour expressed by Varadkar and Coveney. Without doubt it has caused anger and disquiet in Fianna Fail.
On Wednesday evening I watched “Massacre at Ballymurphy” on RTE. I remember this period of our history through a distorted lens because I was living in the States in the early 70’s and bad news came in bursts. I found the programme profoundly shocking. It laid out in forensic detail how the British Army had shot 11 innocent civilians. It brought you back to those horrendous dark days. I found that it engendered within me a sense of outrage and disgust so I can’t imagine how the relatives of those massacred feel. It took until May of this year for the Coroner in Belfast to declare that 10 people shot dead in Ballymurphy were “ all entirely innocent on the day in question”. However, nobody has been called to account. This has a particular relevance when the British government is considering introducing some form of amnesty which would, of course, apply to British soldiers serving in Northern Ireland. Having watched that programme I feel unsettled by the prospect.
Now to hope for the greatest issue of our age – climate change. Channel 4 News were carrying the usual terrifying images of forest fires in California and flooding from Germany to China when I heard with disbelief tales of refreezing the Arctic. Is this remotely possible ? Is it being taken seriously – apparently so. These ideas, including iceberg making submarines, might help but the inescapable fact is that Co2 emissions are killing the planet. Perhaps we would be better served by an Envoy dealing with that.