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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Varadkar 'broke no laws' sharing confidential document with friend, says Irish PM

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin has insisted his predecessor Leo Varadkar broke no laws in sharing a document with a personal friend.

Mr Varadkar, now Tanaiste or deputy prime minister, has come under pressure for passing on a draft contract for Ireland’s GPs while he was Taoiseach, something he admits was “not best practice”.

That phrase was echoed by Mr Martin when he spoke to reporters in Dublin on Monday.

Micheal Martin (R) talks to Leo Varadkar (L)

Image: Micheal Martin (R) has said he does not believe Leo Varadkar (L) broke any laws in sharing details of a GP contract

He said the manner in which Mr Varadkar had shared the document was “inappropriate”, but that there had been no financial or material advantage in him doing so, and added that “I don’t believe any law was broken in relation to this”.

“Yes, in terms of future practice, lessons can be learnt from this,” the prime minister said. “In life, we can all learn from previous experience.”

In April last year, while the government was negotiating with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), Mr Varadkar sent a copy of the new deal to his friend Dr Maitiu O Tuathail, who was head of a rival doctors’ group, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

A political controversy has developed in recent days after an associate of Dr O Tuathail revealed the leak to the Village magazine, which suggested that the then Taoiseach may have breached several laws.

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Mr Varadkar has described the allegations as “grossly defamatory” and has sought legal advice over the article.

He admits that sharing the draft deal was not best practice, but maintains that the fundamental details were already in the public domain by that stage, and therefore he did not breach confidentiality.

Mr Varadkar also says he gave the document to Dr O Tuathail in an attempt to generate support for the deal among the wider GP community.

Mr Martin’s comments will be seen as easing the pressure on Mr Varadkar, avoiding the nightmare political scenario of the coalition government collapsing as Christmas approaches and Ireland remains in a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Mr Martin’s Fianna Fail and Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael have been in coalition since June, along with the Green Party.

Under the terms of the coalition deal, Mr Varadkar is scheduled to take over as Taoiseach again at the end of 2022.

The controversy has some way to run yet.

Mr Varadkar has faced fierce criticism from Opposition leaders, as #sackvaradkar and #leotheleak trend on social media.

He is due to address the Dail – Irish parliament – tomorrow to take questions on the issue, and Mr Martin said that he would not pre-empt that appearance with his comments today.

This post courtesy of sky

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This post courtesy of sky