|Minister for Children and Youth Affairs|
6 May 2016
|Preceded by||James Reilly|
25 May 2011 – 26 February 2016
|Constituency||Nominated by the Taoiseach|
|Born||Katherine Alexandra Zappone
25 November 1953
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Nationality||American / Irish|
|Spouse(s)||Ann Louise Gilligan
(m. 2003; d. 2017)
Katherine Alexandra Zappone (/zæˈpoʊn/; born 25 November 1953) is an American-born Irish Independent politician who has served as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs since May 2016. She has been a Teachta Dála (TD) since 2016, currently for the Dublin South-West constituency. She was a Senator from 2011 to 2016, upon being Nominated by the Taoiseach.
She was 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 became the first openly lesbian member of the Oireachtas and the first member in a recognised same-sex relationship.
She was elected to the Dáil for the Dublin South-West constituency in the Irish general election, 2016, becaming the first openly lesbian Teachta Dála (TD) and, by her own reckoning, the world's 32nd lesbian to be elected to parliament. In May 2016, after a delay in government formation due to prolonged talks in which she played her part, Zappone became Ireland's first openly lesbian government minister and the first minister to have been openly gay at the time of first appointment to cabinet, when Enda Kenny appointed her as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Born in Washington state, Zappone was educated at Boston College (PhD), The Catholic University of America (MA) and University College Dublin (MBA). She became an Irish citizen in 1995. She and her wife, Ann Louise Gilligan, founded 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 sought recognition in the High Court for their Canadian marriage. Zappone was 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 were already married in Canada, Zappone proposed to Ann Louise Gilligan on air as the positive result in the same-sex marriage referendum became known. Gilligan died in June 2017.
An Cosán is an organisation in Jobstown, Tallaght, which offers adult education and other services to women from disadvantaged areas, and is Ireland's largest community education organisation. It currently supports over 1,000 families annually. According to The Irish Times, An Cosán "was established by Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone with the intention of bringing valuable community-based education to the Dublin suburb. In 2012 An Cosán attempted to track the progress of 1,500 past students and found 1,200 were employed."
Speaking at an event for International Women's Day in 2010, then Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin paid tribute to the work done by the women in An Cosán. "They are involved in education courses and communication and childcare and bettering themselves and their children, and they are making a big contribution". Speaking about founding An Cosán, Zappone said "Imagine creating something like An Cosan together with the community. You really feel like you're bringing about some change for the good. Why wouldn't you want to do it?"
An Cosán also runs Fledglings, which operates eight preschools around the country – mostly in disadvantaged areas – which provide education and care to more than 250 children. A notable alumnae of An Cosán is Senator Lynn Ruane, president of Trinity College Students' Union, who at age 16, was a participant on the first Young Women's Programme; Ruane has said that: "An Cosán had its finger on the pulse and responded to a surge of teenage pregnancy in the west Tallaght area, taking into account of what was needed to support young mothers and their participation. Key in that was Rainbow House where my daughter, Jordanne, started out the early years in her life and I began to heal, learn and believe again. An Cosán was the beginning and remains the foundation of my journey so far. Somebody created an opportunity for me, met my needs and empowered me to progress."
Zappone v. Revenue Commissioners
In November 2004, Zappone and Gilligan were granted leave by the High Court to pursue a claim to have their September 2003 Vancouver marriage recognised for the filing of joint tax returns in Ireland. The case was heard in October 2006. The judgment was delivered in December 2006. and found that common law and the Irish constitution had envisaged marriage to be between a man and a woman.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court in February 2007. It came before the Supreme Court in 2012, although returned to the High Court to challenge different elements of law, specifically the Civil Registration Act of 2004 and Civil Partnership Act of 2010.
Seanad Éireann (2011–2016)
In December 2014, she voted against the Water Services Bill, and spoke about the "people's right to water in a fair, affordable, efficient and effective manner". She also took part in a protest in Tallaght opposing the government's handling of water charges, at which she "noted that some were not opposed to water charge but had serious concerns about the way in which they were being implemented and the speed at which they were being rolled out", and said "there was public anger about the mistakes made relating to Irish Water".
Zappone also spoke about the housing problem in South Dublin, highlighting that "there were 173 people homeless in the South Dublin County Council area. She said "either the Government analyses of these problems are wrong or incomplete or the political ideologies that direct its solutions are insipid, vacuous of original vision or simply outdated"."
Zappone began working on amendments to the Gender Recognition Bill. After Zappone sought to amend the Gender Recognition Legislation, Minister of State Kevin Humphreys accepted the principle of a Seanad amendment to have the legislation recognising the identity of transgender people reviewed. During Seanad debate, Zappone highlighted that it was regrettable it had taken successive Irish governments more than 20 years to legislate for gender recognition.
Zappone stated that "the Tallaght Garda District must receive its fair share of new recruits and vehicles being made available to the force in the coming weeks". The following month she confirmed that she had received confirmation that the local Garda district was to receive 13 new cars after communication with the Garda Commissioner, Noirín O’Sullivan.
In April 2015, Zappone raised the One-Parent Family Payment changes in the Seanad, highlighting that "single parents want their parental responsibility recognised, while some want access to full-time education with proper State support for their children".
Marriage Equality referendum
Zappone was a prominent campaigner for the Yes campaign in Ireland's Marriage Equality referendum, featuring on an RTÉ Primetime debate, helping YesEquality as a voluntary adviser, taking part in debates, and campaigning for a Yes vote. On 22 May 2015, she spoke about how she believed Irish people would "vote Yes for equality; for a Republic of equals, a Republic of love". On 23 May 2015, Zappone asked her wife Ann Louise Gilligan live on air to remarry her in Ireland now that it had voted yes to marriage equality. She described how she was "feeling emotional from the top all the way down to my toes".
Dáil Éireann (2016–present)
In June 2015, Zappone announced she would contest the next general election as an Independent candidate in the Dublin South-West constituency. Confirming her decision to run, Senator Zappone added: "Since the end of last year it has been a privilege to engage with local people in Dublin South West ahead of the Marriage Referendum. Together with my spouse, Ann Louise Gilligan and the team of Yes Equality supporters we received a fantastic welcome on the doorsteps, at shopping centres and at community events. It was clear that people in Dublin South West believe in equality, however it was also evident that they are weary of old school politics which has led to years of austerity, unfair cuts and disillusionment."
She was the final candidate elected to the Dáil for the Dublin South-West constituency in the 2016 general election, following a full recount. In the third round of voting for Taoiseach, Zappone voted in favour of Enda Kenny.
Zappone was embroiled in controversy after being elected as allegations surfaced regarding her claiming excessive amounts for mileage expenses. On 24 March 2016, The Sunday Times reported that the former senator stands to earn €80,000 over the next five years from these expenses as she claims to live more than 25 km from Leinster House. The paper, however, reports AA’s Route Planner puts the distance at less than 22 km. During her time in the Seanad, Zappone was paid expenses on the basis that she lived farther than 25 km from Leinster House. It is understood she has submitted documentation to the Oireachteas again claiming her normal place of residence is farther than 25 km from the Dail.
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Katherine and Ann Louise are lesbian feminist theologians.
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|Independent Teachta Dála for Dublin South-West
|Minister for Children and Youth Affairs