- 02 Nov 20
The Tánaiste also said that he has sought legal advice on the Village article's contents, despite editor Michael Smith claiming that more information was yet to come from the publication.
Leo Varadkar is to make a statement in the Dáil tomorrow on the controversy concerning ‘leaked documents’ that erupted over the weekend.
Members of the opposition have called for a full explanation from the Tánaiste of the circumstances surrounding the events, first revealed by Village magazine over the weekend, involving a deal done with the IMO, and information being supplied its rival representative group for members of the medical profession, the National Association of General Practitioners.
Leo Varadkar, who was Taoiseach at the time the information was passed on to the then-head of the NAGP Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, has already issued a statement in which he acknowledges that the decision to pass on information to the NAGP was not best practice. However, he has defended his position vigorously – and the expectation is that he will continue to do so in the Dáil.
Mr Varadkar accepted in a statement on Sunday that his provision of the document, which he had couriered to the home of Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, was “not best practice” and he expressed regret “that he did not ensure that it was provided in a more appropriately formal manner."
"Village Magazine has published an article in its current edition which is both inaccurate and grossly defamatory," Mr Varadkar's spokesperson said.
Speaking at a jobs announcement at Government buildings today (Monday, November 2), Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the leaking of the document “was not best practice and the Tánaiste himself has accepted that, and this was not the appropriate way to deal with a document of this kind in terms of the manner it was sent to the president of the NAGP.”
He maintained that he has confidence in the Tánaiste, and does not have an issue in terms of working together - stating that Leo Varadkar will address the claims himself tomorrow in the Dáil.
That has not assuaged his political opponents. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Aodhán Ó Riordáin, Labour Party TD for Dublin North-Central, was highly critical of the Tánaiste’s actions while he was Taoiseach. However, he stopped short of demanding Leo Varadkar’s resignation – “for now”
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said his party views it as “deeply inappropriate” that Tánaiste Varadkar handed over the confidential IMO contract to the president of a rival doctors' group, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.
“We want the Tánaiste to answer why he stepped into a process that he had no involvement with and handed a document which was stamped confidential and not for circulation to a friend of his. We want to know if this is something that has happened previously or happened since. This is not the way that business should be done."
He added: “It’s not just about if the law has been broken: there's also the question of if this is appropriate behaviour for the Taoiseach to engage in and it’s important for Leo Varadkar to answer if this is something he regularly does."
Here is a clip of our Education, Enterprise and Trade Spokesperson @AodhanORiordain on @morningireland this morning!
Catch up on Aodhan's interviews this morning here
— The Labour Party (@labour) November 2, 2020
Sinn Féin Donegal TD Pearse Doherty also made his views clear on the Claire Byrne show this morning:
"It was unbelievably wrong.... but there is no doubt that this is how the old boys' network works and how the Tánaiste participates in that, and that is simply wrong and needs to be challenged – and that is what we will do tomorrow."
Fellow Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said today that Leo Varadkar’s document-sharing is a “very serious situation for Fine Gael”, and claimed that his action was not in the public interest, but that of the NAGP.
"Fine Gael's attempt to circle the wagons is not going to work. The important facts on this I think are that a document that was marked 'confidential, not for circulation' was sent to a person with a material interest in having that document by the Taoiseach... to somebody who was a close personal friend.
"I do think that represents very poor judgment," O'Reilly added.
"It's a matter that requires further clarification and questioning. And that's what we're going to be doing on Tuesday. I want to find out what the exact purpose was - what was the arrangement in place? Was he asked by the Minister for Health to circulate this documentation? Is the leader of Fine Gael, Leo Varadkar, actually in the habit of circulating documentation like this, as a matter of course, is this something that he routinely does?".
While most Fianna Fáil TDs have kept their counsel, it is clear that the development is likely to cause further strains within the coalition. The Minister for Education Catherine Foley spoke to RTÉ News yesterday and insisted that the Dáil was the appropriate forum for the issue to be dealt with and said that she was happy that the Tánaiste had agreed to answer questions from TPs on the issue.
However, there have been signs that some members of the Green Party may take a more critical position, with the Junior Minister Ossian Smyth TD stating that he is "looking forward to hearing a full explanation" from the Tánaiste tomorrow regarding the document sharing.
Smyth also mentioned one ethical question he has for the Tánaiste: "Did the sharing confer any unfair advantage on the organisation that received it?"
"We have a chance to get these answers tomorrow", Patrick Costello TD commented.
Mr Costello said that many TDs he is speaking to are concerned about what is in the document and what "hasn't been said."
Green Party Deputy leader Catherine Martin said Mr Varadkar's statement to the Dáil is of crucial importance and he needs to give a "full and frank explanation" of his actions.
She said she did not think it would be "right or constructive" to be prescriptive about the questions he needs to answer, adding that her party believes the sharing of the contract was not appropriate.