A quick grovel and then focus on the future.

That's what most political observers felt would happen when the Fine Gael parliamentary party gathered today in Trim, Co Meath, for their "think-in".

Indeed, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney did apologise to their TDs and Senators for the long-running debacle surrounding Katherine Zappone's appointment as a special envoy.

However, the media story did not move onto the Fine Gael plans for the budget.

It was a comment by Mr Varadkar on RTÉ's Morning Ireland which led to a welter of new questions from the media and a statement being issued by the Taoiseach.

During the interview, Mr Varadkar told presenter Mary Wilson that a memo with Ms Zappone's name had been sent to the Department of the Taoiseach on the night before the fateful Cabinet decision.

This was important as it raised a possibility at least that the Taoiseach could have known about Ms Zappone's appointment before the Cabinet met - contrary to what Mr Martin previously had said.

When he addressed the media at midday, the Tánaiste was questioned about this timeline.

There was an added bite to the conference because the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath had stated that "it is not the case" that Ministers had a memo with Ms Zappone's name on it.

Mr Varadkar clarified that both he and Minister McGrath were right - Ministers had received a memo with no name, but the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs had sent a memo to the Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach with Katherine Zappone's name on it.

At the same time, the Tánaiste said he should have told Micheál Martin in person about the issue and for that he apologised.

He added that Minister Coveney had not followed Cabinet protocol - and he also had apologised.

It begged the question - why mention the issue at all? Mr Varadkar said he mentioned for completeness, and countered whether journalists were suggesting he withhold information.

As the story grew legs, a statement was issued on behalf of the Taoiseach.

His spokesperson said Micheál Martin "was not informed" before Cabinet; nor was he alerted before the Cabinet at the leaders meeting.

"The first time the Taoiseach was aware that Katherine Zappone was being nominated for a role was at the Cabinet meeting - once the memo was distributed."

So what about the Secretary General memo?

Well, the statement added that the memo was sent "at 9:24pm on the night before Cabinet ... and was not sent to anyone else in the Department until the following morning ... just before Cabinet."

Mr Varadkar had said during his news conference that this "think-in" should be talking about the "enormous successes and the enormous progress that the country and the government have made over the summer".

With a no-confidence motion in Minister Coveney slated for Wednesday, maybe that was always going to be wishful thinking.

All it took was one comment and it quickly became a case of - another day... another story about Katherine Zappone's appointment.


Think-in will unite Fine Gael party, says Varadkar