Poll finds majority think Varadkar should step down until Garda leak probe is resolved
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar should step aside as leader of Fine Gael and as a Government minister until gardai have completed their criminal investigation into the leaking of an official report by him to a friend, a new Ireland Thinks poll has found.© Provided by Extra.ie
The sensational result comes in the wake of Irish Mail on Sunday revelations that Mr Varadkar has been under full criminal investigation since a team of detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation began their inquiries last year.
The dramatic sway in public support against the 42-year-old Fine Gael leader and Business Minister is sure to send shockwaves through his party followers, and will dent the already shaky relationship he has with his Coalition partners in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.© Provided by Extra.ie Tanaiste Leo Varadkar should step aside as leader of Fine Gael and as a Government minister until gardai have completed their criminal investigation into the leaking of an official report by him to a friend, a new Ireland Thinks poll has found. Pic: Maxwells/PA Wire
According to the poll, taken only yesterday, the majority of people believe it is not tenable for the Tánaiste to remain on in office while he is the subject of a major Garda probe.
When those questioned in the Ireland Thinks survey were asked: ‘Should Leo Varadkar step down temporarily during the current investigation into the leaking of the GP contract?’, 52% of those polled said ‘Yes’ whereas 43% said ‘No’.
And despite the attempts by all three Coalition partners – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party – to minimise the implications of the ongoing Garda investigation, the poll shows that voters think otherwise.
Only 5.04% of those polled said they ‘don’t know’ whether the Tánaiste should step aside.© Provided by Extra.ie ‘Should Leo Varadkar step down temporarily during the current investigation into the leaking of the GP contract?’, 52% of those polled said ‘Yes’ whereas 43% said ‘No’. Pic: Maxwells/PA Wire
Last week Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald demanded that Mr Varadkar resign as Tánaiste and she sent a written request to Taoiseach Micheál Martin asking for a meeting with him to discuss the controversy.
However, her request was denied and a Government spokesman described the letter from the Sinn Féin leader as a political tactic that ‘lacked sincerity’.
The MoS has previously reported how Detective Superintendent Ken Keelin has been heading up the investigation into the leaked document, after a Department of Health whistleblower made a complaint last November.
Detective Chief Superintendent Walter O’Sullivan is overseeing the investigation. A source said: ‘This was never a scoping inquiry, it has been a full criminal [investigation] from the start.’
Detectives finished interviewing all witnesses from the department over a month ago. They included the then health minister Simon Harris, who gave a statement in January.
Phone data is continuing to be examined and it is expected the Tánaiste will be interviewed under caution in the coming weeks.
A source said there has been a ‘surreal feeling’ with investigators as to why it was being labelled a scoping exercise.
A whistleblower made a complaint to gardai three months ago and the investigation has been ‘developing at pace’ ever since. It is centred on the Tánaiste sending a new national GP contract, marked ‘Confidential’, to his friend Dr Maitiú O Tuathail, in April 2019, when Mr Varadkar was Taoiseach.© Provided by Extra.ie It is centred on the Tánaiste sending a new national GP contract, marked ‘Confidential’, to his friend Dr Maitiú O Tuathail, in April 2019.
Neither Mr Varadkar nor Dr O Tuathail have yet been interviewed, but it is expected they will be interviewed imminently.
The controversy led to a motion of no confidence in Mr Varadkar, tabled by Sinn Féin last November, which the Tánaiste survived.
Mr Varadkar admitted that he posted a copy of a contract negotiated between his Government and the Irish Medical Organisation to Dr O Tuathail, who at the time led a rival doctors’ group called the National Association of General Practitioners.
The Tánaiste apologised for his actions in the Dáil last November after he had been accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act and the law.© Provided by Extra.ie The controversy led to a motion of no confidence in Mr Varadkar, tabled by Sinn Féin last November, which the Tánaiste survived. Pic: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
‘There was nothing selfish, corrupt, dishonest or illegal in what I did,’ he said.
This week Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised the Taoiseach for his ‘arrogant’ response to the letter she sent him requesting a meeting on the matter. Mr Martin said most of the letters Ms McDonald sent were ‘purely political’ and tactical.