seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Katherine Zappone, American-Irish Independent Politician

Katherine Zappone, American-Irish independent politician who serves as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs from May 2016 to June 2020, is born in Seattle, Washington, on November 25, 1953. She is a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West constituency from 2016 to 2020. She previously served as a Senator from 2011 to 2016, after being nominated by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Zappone is educated at Boston College (PhD), the Catholic University of America (MA) and University College Dublin (MBA). She becomes an Irish citizen in 1995. She and her wife, Ann Louise Gilligan, found An Cosán which supports individuals and communities to actively engage in the process of social change through transformative education. In Zappone and Gilligan v. Revenue Commissioners (2006), they unsuccessfully seek recognition in the High Court, for their Canadian marriage in Ireland. Zappone is a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission, chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and a lecturer in the fields of ethics, theology, and education at Trinity College, Dublin. Though they are already married in Canada, she proposes to Gilligan on air as the positive result in the same-sex marriage referendum becomes known. Gilligan dies in June 2017.

Zappone is nominated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the 24th Seanad in 2011, having been recommended by Eamon Gilmore, the then leader of Fine Gael‘s coalition partners, the Labour Party. With her Seanad nomination, she becomes the first openly lesbian member of the Oireachtas and the first member in a recognised same-sex relationship.

Zappone is elected to the Dáil for the Dublin South-West constituency at the 2016 Irish general election, becoming the first openly lesbian TD and, by her own reckoning, the world’s 32nd lesbian to be elected to a national parliament. In May 2016, after a delay in government formation, due to prolonged talks, she becomes Ireland’s first openly lesbian government Minister and the first Minister to have been openly gay at the time of appointment to cabinet, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny appoints her as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. She loses her seat at the February 2020 Irish general election and continues to serve as a minister until June 2020 on the election of a new government.

Following the loss of her seat at the 2020 Irish general election, Zappone moves back to Seattle to work as a full-time volunteer for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in the 2020 United States presidential election, then to New York.

In July 2021, it is announced that Zappone is to be appointed to the newly created position of Special Envoy to the UN for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. It subsequently emerges that the proposed appointment had not been flagged in advance of the Cabinet meeting where it was proposed by Minister Simon Coveney, raising the concerns of the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. However, he does not block the appointment, attracting criticism from within government, the opposition and the public, with Sinn Féin describing the appointment as “cronyism.”

In the following days it is reported that Zappone had lobbied for the creation of and appointment to the part-time position, which was not openly advertised or subject to a competition. Further controversy arises when it is reported that shortly prior to the announcement of her appointment, she had hosted a party for 50 guests, including politicians such as Leo Varadkar, at the Merrion Hotel, while the COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland was ongoing. Comparisons are made between the party and the Oireachtas Golf Society scandal from earlier in the pandemic. On August 4, 2021, she announces that she will not take up the envoy role, saying “While I am honoured to have been appointed by the Government to be the Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, it is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself. It is my conviction that a Special Envoy role can only be of real value to Ireland and to the global community if the appointment is acceptable to all parties.”

In September 2021, Zappone is invited to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, but chooses not to attend. As a U.S. citizen and resident, the committee has no power to compel her attendance.


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Founding of Bord Fáilte, the Irish Tourist Board

Bord Fáilte, the Irish Tourist Board, is founded on July 3, 1952, and is the predecessor organization of Fáilte Ireland (Ireland’s Welcome), which is the operating name of the National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland.

After the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, hoteliers and others create local tourism boards in various regions, which combine in 1924 into the Irish Tourism Association (ITA), a private organisation “promoting tourism to the benefit of the nation.” (An earlier, unionist-led, ITA existed from 1895 to 1921.) ITA lobbying leads to the Irish Tourist Board being established by the Tourist Traffic Act 1939. This is renamed An Bord Fáilte by the Tourist Traffic Act 1952, which creates a separate body, Fógra Fáilte, to handle publicity. The Tourist Traffic Act 1955 remerges the two as Bord Fáilte Éireann (BFÉ or “Bord Fáilte”). An Tóstal, a summer cultural festival held from 1953 to 1959, takes up the bulk of the authority’s work during this period. In 1963 the Council of Education, Recruitment and Training (CERT) is created to take over training of workers in the hospitality industry.

In 1964, eight regional tourist organisations (RTOs) are established which are intended to supersede the ITA. An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) called in 1964 to dissolve the ITA votes not to do so, but it nevertheless soon becomes defunct. The RTOs reduce in number to six in the 1980s, and are renamed regional tourist associations (RTAs) in 1996. In 1989 the Dublin RTO loses a High Court action to prevent BFÉ dissolving it. It is reconstituted as Dublin Tourism and more closely controlled by BFÉ.

In 2003 CERT and BFÉ merge to form Fáilte Ireland, to better co-ordinate with Tourism Ireland, the all-island body established under the Good Friday Agreement. The advent of travel websites reduces the usefulness of the RTAs and a 2005 PricewaterhouseCoopers report recommends substantial reorganisation. As a consequence all are dissolved in 2006, except Dublin Tourism, which is made a direct subsidiary of Fáilte Ireland. Dublin Tourism’s separate status ends in 2012 in line with a 2011 report by Grant Thornton International.

Fáilte Ireland played a leading role in The Gathering Ireland 2013, a year-long programme of events encouraging members of the Irish diaspora to visit their region of origin.

The legal name of the body is the National Tourism Development Authority, according to the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003 which established it. The 2003 act also empowers the body to use the trading name of Fáilte Ireland. The word fáilte is Irish for “welcome.” In official Irish-language texts the form Fáilte Éireann has been used.