Garda inquiry into document leak by Tanaiste is now criminal investigation
GARDAÍ ARE NOW treating the inquiry into Tánaiste Leo Varadkar surrounding the leaking of a GP contract to a rival organisation as a criminal investigation.© Sam Boal Rollingnews.ie Varadkar at the Convention Centre in February.
Previously, garda involvement was concerned with determining whether an offence had been committed.
Gardaí are investigating whether there has been a breach of corruption legislation or the Official Secrets Act, which provides for the safeguarding of official information.
The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) is carrying out the investigation.
The NBCI conducts, supports, and reviews investigations under the supervision of the Garda Assistant Commissioner for Organised and Serious Crime.
One source said it is not certain whether prosecution will be recommended.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Tánaiste said that the gardaí “have not been in contact with the Tánaiste about this matter”.
“Last month, on foot of media reports, his solicitors contacted the Gardaí to confirm his willingness to meet them and provide a statement,” the spokesperson said.
“His legal advice is that he has committed no offence and looks forward to the matter being concluded.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics today, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphries said that Varadkar should “absolutely not” step aside from his position in Cabinet while an investigation is ongoing.
“The Tánaiste has made his position very clear in the Dáil last November and he has said it was an error of judgement,” Humphries said. The minister said that Varadkar’s actions were “in the interests of GPs, in the interests of patients, and in the interests of the general public”.
Sinn Fein TD Mairéad Farrell said that the incident highlights that “there’s this culture of if you’ve friends in high places – a culture that should have been gone decades ago out of Irish politics – there’s a culture that if you have a friend in a high place that you can get access to information that other people can’t”.
“That is simply wrong,” Farrell said.
In February, Varadkar said he had contacted the gardaí through his solicitors over the complaint while they were assessing correspondence.
Varadkar said his solicitors had informed the gardaí that he was willing to meet with them.
Former Minister for Health Simon Harris is understood to have given a statement to gardaí during preliminary inquiries as part of the gardaí’s efforts to establish if further action was needed.
Varadkar apologised for “errors of judgement” in the Dáil in November, but said that suggestions he had a personal gain were “false and deeply offensive”.
The Tánaiste’s apology came as he told the Dáil he gave a copy of an agreement negotiated between the Government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to the National Association of General Practioners, a rival GP group, in 2019.