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party support Fianna Fáil to save Varadkar only if he stops 'undermining Government'

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Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography/PA)

FIANNA Fáil will save Leo Varadkar's political career and support the Tánaiste in the face of growing criticism over his decision to give details of an unpublished GP contract to a friend and political supporter.

However, Fianna Fáil ministers are insisting Mr Varadkar stops undermining the Government in return for their support.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the doctors' union at the centre of the controversy threatened to tell their patients to vote against Fine Gael if they were not included in GP contract talks.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) wrote to TDs in February last year, warning them they would tell patients about the "detrimental" impact of Fine Gael health policies ahead of the local elections in May of that year.

The warning came two months before Mr Varadkar gave a copy of the contract the Government agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to the NAGP.

GRILLING

The fresh twist in the controversy comes as Taoiseach Micheál Martin and senior Fianna Fáil figures rallied behind the embattled Fine Gael leader as he prepares for a Dáíl grilling today.

The Taoiseach said he had full confidence in Mr Varadkar and insisted that while he acted inappropriately, he did not break any laws.

Sacked agriculture minister Barry Cowen also weighed in behind the Tánaiste, saying he made a mistake, but it was time to "move on" from the controversy.

However, Fianna Fáil ministers were last night insisting that in return for their support, Mr Varadkar must "stop undermining the Government".

"He has been playing games constantly and we hope that this brings it to an end," one minister said.

Another said: "His way of operating up to now will have to end and the contract issue should draw a line under it."

Fine Gael ministers and TDs hit the airwaves yesterday to defend Mr Varadkar as the Opposition raised questions about his actions.

Mr Varadkar posted the GP contract to his friend and supporter, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, who was then NAGP president, between April 11 and 16 last year.

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It was sent two months after the NAGP threatened to campaign against Fine Gael TDs in the local and general elections.

In the letter, the NAGP said its members intended to campaign against their local Fine Gael politicians unless they were included in pay negotiations involving the IMO.

"This activity could involve up to 2,100 individual GPs informing their patients personally about the health policies of Fine Gael TDs and councillors in the upcoming local and general elections, and the detrimental effect that these policies are having on patient services in the community," the letter said.

"Our members advise us that they will inform their patients of the failings in the health service and the role of Fine Gael in the demise of community and GP services."

POSTERS

They said this might include posters in waiting rooms and media campaigns by GPs on local radio stations and in reg- ional newspapers.

Meanwhile, Rise TD Paul Murphy has asked the Standards in Public Office Commission to review the Tánaiste's actions.

Mr Murphy asked it to investigate if Mr Varadkar had breached the Code of Conduct for Office Holders and the Code of Conduct for Members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.


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