Sun, 21 Mar, 2021 – 20:30 Aoife Moore Political Correspondent
Fine Gael is in “turmoil” over the ongoing criminal probe into Tanaiste Leo Varadkar’s leak of confidential documents, according to senior party sources.
It was reported on Sunday that former health minister Simon Harris was interviewed by gardaí as part of their investigation into the leak of a GP contract by Mr Varadkar to a friend in a rival GP organisation in April 2019.
Mr Harris told gardaí that he had refused to leak the confidential document to the now-defunct National Association of General Practitioners.
Senior party sources have confirmed that both those close to Mr Varadkar and backbenchers are concerned about damage to the party after weeks of leaks from the investigation in Sunday newspapers.
“The comments from the gardaí sources in the press allude to the fact they’re likely to progress this inquiry,” one senior source said.
“It appears like they want to turn up the heat.
“Regardless of what anyone says they’re all worried, what happens if he’s brought in for questioning, under caution, that’ll be leaked, then if a file gets sent to DPP, even if they don’t prosecute that’s another moment, how long does it go on for?
“Denis Naughten had to go over the perception of wrongdoing, Frances Fitzgerald didn’t break a law, they both went — Leo calls for people to resign every day of the week.
“The longer it goes on the worse it is, Leo admitted he was wrong and now the party is in an ordeal over his behaviour.”
Kate O’Connell, a former Fine Gael TD in Dublin who lost her seat at the 2020 election, said she believes Mr Varadkar is “in trouble”.
“I don’t like seeing anybody in trouble but I do think it’s very concerning for the party,” Ms O’Connell said.
When you have the leader of the party subject to a criminal investigation it just wouldn’t sit well, in my view, with the membership of the party.
“It appears there was a confidential document leaked, I was in the Dáil at the time, there was a lot of talk at the time about that contract. The fact is, it was a valuable document to an organisation that wasn’t entitled to it.”
“Nobody has said that anybody has broken a law yet, that’s the job of the DPP. But in terms of the party, it is always going to be damaging. If you have the leader of a party that’s subject to a criminal investigation that can never be a positive,” Ms O’Connell said.
One cabinet minister told the Irish Examiner that there is an unease at the highest levels of Government about the probe, not least from Mr Varadkar himself.
“He definitely realises the seriousness of it.
“The stakes are high, it’s an uncomfortable position to be in and worrying to see the leaks coming from the investigation weekly, it’s quite concerning.”
Mr Varadkar has denied any wrongdoing.