The Dail should be called in, as a matter of State Urgency, this is a major Scandal of Alleged Betrayal of Abusing State and its People. Leaked Government Information, well, What next???

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Leo Varadkar to face grilling in the Dail over ‘leak’ to GP pal

Varadkar has taken legal advice
Varadkar has taken legal advice NIALL CARSON

Leo Varadkar, the tanaiste and Fine Gael leader, will face intense questioning from the opposition in the Dail on Tuesday over his secret communication of a €210m government deal with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a rival body of GPs last year. Government party TDs have also called for clarification of the circumstances in which Varadkar sent the document, which was stamped “confidential — restricted circulation”, to a personal acquaintance. Last night the Green Party called on Varadkar to give a detailed account to the Dail and allow sufficient time for questioning. “It is clear from what has been revealed that the passing on of sensitive information in this manner was not appropriate,” it said. “The timelines and the full impact of the disclosure on all involved needs further scrutiny.” The former taoiseach agreed his delivery of the IMO agreement through “an informal communication channel” to the president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), Maitiú Ó Tuathail, “was not best practice” and he regretted not handing it over in a more appropriate and formal manner. However he branded as “inaccurate and grossly defamatory” an article in Village magazine which claimed he might have contravened the Dail code of conduct, the Official Secrets Act, and corruption legislation. Varadkar said he was seeking legal advice about the article. The Labour Party, the Social Democrats and Rise all insisted Varadkar had serious questions to answer. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of the Labour Party said: “If the NAGP wanted a copy of the document why was it not officially requested from the responsible minister for health or the department? The taoiseach gave his close friend a secret document. We need to know has this happened before or since? We can’t have special access to sensitive information about state services and negotiations available only to the friends of the leader of Fine Gael.” After speaking with taoiseach Micheál Martin twice yesterday and also to Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader, Varadkar issued a statement at 3.30pm rejecting the allegations of illegality and stressing that the deal with the IMO had been publicly announced when he gave it to the NAGP. He admitted giving the details of the deal to the NAGP between April 11 and 16. Michael Smith, the editor of Village, responded that Varadkar’s assertion that details of the deal were already known was contradicted by a statement made in the Dail at the time by Stephen Donnelly, the current health minister. During Dail statements on reform of the GP contract on April 16, 2019, Donnelly complained the details of the deal agreed on April 3 had not been made public. “The GPs have not seen it, the public have not seen it, and we have not seen it,” Donnelly said. Varadkar said his actions were intended to encourage all GPs to agree to the new terms on offer. The deal was agreed in full with the IMO until May 8, and was formally approved by a vote of its membership on May 22. The controversy has caused significant disquiet within Fine Gael. One party figure described Varadkar’s response as a “legally strong and politically weak statement”. He added: “At the end of the day, strip away all the padding in the statement, we have a former taoiseach admitting leaking a state document marked ‘strictly confidential’ and ‘restricted’ to a friend.” Marc MacSharry, Fianna Fail TD for Sligo Leitrim, called on Martin to seek further clarification from the tanaiste. “A distraction of this nature cannot be allowed to fester given the enormity of the problems that we face,” he said. Neasa Hourigan, a Green TD for Dublin Central, said: “An action such as this does not have to be criminal to fall well short of best practice in public office and I believe there are some further questions to be answered in this matter.” Varadkar’s statement said the 2019 agreement on GP contractual reforms was negotiated by the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation and that “the essential details of it were publicly announced” on April 5. As head of government, he was keen the agreement would be well received. The government had publicly committed to keep the NAGP informed as to the progress of negotiations on the agreement, he said. “Therefore, the provision of a copy of the agreed and publicly announced agreement by the taoiseach to the president of the NAGP was honouring a political commitment previously made by the government.” Smith, who wrote the Village article, disputed Varadkar’s denial that he was in breach of the Official Secrets Act. “The act says, ‘A person shall not communicate any official information to any other person unless he is duly authorised to do so or does so in the course of and in accordance with his duties as the holder of a public office or when it is his duty in the interest of the state to communicate it’. The rule applies to persons, including Oireachtas members.” Smith said the tanaiste’s statement also failed to reflect the fact that members of the NAGP’s council, regarded the forwarding of the document marked “confidential” to them via WhatsApp as “the real deal” and were asking “where did you rob it?” Ó Tuathail expressly told them: “Please say nothing and keep this confidential”, adding it “must not leak”. Another message from the NAGP’s chairman from April 18, reproduced in Village, said: “Remember IMO GPs are not seeing the contract document . . . just what the IMO are telling them.” Smith asked: “Why did Mr Varadkar not remove the first page saying ‘confidential’ and replace it with a blank page if by then the document was no longer confidential?”

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