DPP could take 'full year' to decide if Leo Varadkar should face criminal charges

A spokesperson for Leo Varadkar said yesterday he is "very confident" he will not face charges over the matter

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

Neil Fethersonhaugh

The DPP will take "at least three months" to decide if Leo Varadkar should face criminal charges over the leaking of a confidential government document, a legal expert has said.

Mr Varadkar previously told the Dáil he gave a copy of an agreement between the State and the Irish Medical Organisation to Maitiú Ó Túathail, the then president of a rival GP organisation, the National Association of General Practitioners, in April 2019.

It is understood officers from the specialist National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) sent the Garda file to the public prosecutor in the past couple of days.

The DPP will now review the file and decide if criminal charges should be brought against the Tánaiste.

A source has told the Sunday World this processs takes a minimum of three months, but could easily take a full year if the DPP ask for further clarifications from gardaí.

"If the DPP needs to go back to gardaí with further queries or a request for more information, the process could drag out well towards the end of the year," one lawyer told the Sunday World.

If a decision is not reached by the DPP, it could complicate the planned appointment of Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach in December under the rotating deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The Tánaiste has said he is anxious to see a conclusion to the investigation.

Social Democrat co-leader Rosin Shortall has already said her party would have concerns if the Garda investigation has not concluded by the time Mr Vardakar is set to become Taoiseach.

However, a spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said yesterday he is "very confident" he will not face charges over the matter.

"The Tánaiste has been informed through his solicitors that the Garda investigation is now over. A file is with the DPP," the spokesperson said.

"We understand the gardaí have made no recommendation. It is now for the DPP to consider the matter.

"The Tánaiste is pleased that this matter is now moving on and is very confident the outcome will be in his favour."

A Garda spokesman has said: "An Garda Síochána can confirm that an investigation file on this matter has been submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution for its consideration.

"As this matter is now for consideration by the Office of the DPP, An Garda Síochána will not be commenting any further."

The long-running Garda probe by a specialist team of officers initially anticipated the investigation would be finished by the end of last summer.

However, the probe was extended for a number of reasons.

These included several people making a series of additional, add-on statements.

Mr Varadkar and Dr Ó Tuathail have both been questioned by gardaí.

Both men's phones were also examined by detectives.

The Tánaiste has apologised for passing the contract details on to Dr Ó Tuathail and said his legal advice is that he "committed no offence".

Though Mr Varadkar has been accused by political opponents of breaching the Official Secrets Act, gardaí are investigating whether he breached section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act, 2018.

It states it is a criminal offence to use "confidential information obtained in the course of his or her office, employment, position or business for the purpose of corruptly obtaining a gift, consideration or advantage for himself or herself or for any other person".

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