Varadkar ‘threw friend under the bus and reversed back over him’, says Sinn Féin TD
Dr Maitiú Ó’Tuathail and Leo Varadkar
November 05 2020 03:58 PM
Leo Varadkar has thrown his leak friend under the bus – and then reversed back over him, the Dáil has been told.
The Tánaiste, who told members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that they should choose their friends carefully, was tackled by Sinn Féin over the continuing controversy.
Pearse Doherty TD told Mr Varadkar he should have kept text messages he received last year from Maitiú Ó Tuathail, President of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), as they were official records and subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr Varadkar has said he cleared the messages from his phone to free up space.
It was Mr Ó Tuathail who sought and received from Mr Varadkar, then the Taoiseach, a confidential copy of a draft new GP contract the Government had negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).
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Meanwhile the Dáil also heard there were at least 35 changes to the document leaked in April last year before it was finally agreed with the IMO the following month.
The point of the changes – although minor – is that the contract document was secret and effectively under negotiation, according to Sinn Féin.
Mr Doherty said Mr Varadkar’s reference to being careful in picking your friends “doesn’t sound to me like words of someone sorry for their actions.
“They sound like someone who is annoyed that they got caught.”
Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, Mr Varadkar “threw Maitiú Ó Tuathail under the bus – and reversed back over him.”
The former NAGP President “isn’t to blame here,” Mr Doherty said, claiming he was absolutely within his rights as president of the NAGP to seek this document, either from the Minister for Health, or from the Taoiseach himself.
“The wrongdoing here was that you were not entitled to provide this document, marked confidential, to a friend of yours. It was you who made that decision.”
Mr Varadkar retorted that he had not sought to blame anyone else. “I very clearly and very definitely accepted responsibility for this.
“I used the term ‘sole responsibility’,” he added.
In referring to “at least 35 changes” to the leaked draft document before the new contract deal was finally fully agreed with the IMO, Mr Doherty said: “The reality is the discussions were still alive and ongoing.”
Thus the argument that the deal was already fully in the public domain and not secret at all, “simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said however: “Any changes were so minor that they did not require a return to Cabinet. They were of that nature. If they were significant, they would have required a return to Cabinet.”
Mr Varadkar also said he no longer had messages with Dr Ó Tuathail from as recently as the weekend. “I don’t, as standard, keep text messages,” he said.