The controversial speaker of the New Zealand parliament has been appointed as the country’s next ambassador to Ireland.
Trevor Mallard (68) will take up the post in January next year. The appointment by the prime minister Jessica Ardern has been described as “an insult to our friends in Ireland” by the leader of one of the country’s main opposition parties.
ACT New Zealand leader David Seymour said Mr Mallard had a “lengthy political rap sheet and zero diplomatic ability”.
He has been embroiled in a number of incidents going back to 2002 when he told two International Rugby Board officials that he would insert beer bottles in “uncomfortable places” in a row over the co-hosting of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2007 he apologised after punching an opposition MP outside the debating chamber.
In 2020 he was blamed for spending NZ$572,000 (€357,300) on a children’s playground in the grounds of the New Zealand parliament, including NZ$243,000 on a slide. The playground was budgeted at NZ$400,000.
Mr Mallard has sought to make the New Zealand parliament more family friendly and to encourage female MPs to bring their children into the chamber if they need feeding.
Last year, he apologised for falsely accusing a parliamentary staff member of rape leaving taxpayers to pay damages and legal fees of NZ$330,000 after the staff member took a case against him.
In February he turned the sprinklers on those protesting against the Covid-19 vaccination mandates outside New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington. He also played loud music in a vain attempt to scatter them.
In June, an opinion poll found that just 17 per cent of New Zealanders approved of him as speaker, 48 per cent disapproved of him and 35 per cent did not know.
A Labour ally of prime minister Jacinda Ardern, he has long been targeted by the opposition in New Zealand.