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Government wins motion of confidence in Leo Varadkar

Sinn Fein earlier tabled a motion of no-confidence in Mr Varadkar over his leaking of Government documents while Taoiseach.

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Leo Varadkar outside Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar outside Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar outside Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)

The Government has won a motion of confidence in Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.

TDs backed the motion by 92 votes to 65 on Tuesday evening after debating the matter for more than two hours in the Dail.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin proposed the motion in response to Sinn Fein tabling a motion of no-confidence in Mr Varadkar over his leaking of Government documents while Taoiseach.

The Fine Gael leader came under fire last week for passing documents regarding a GP pay deal with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), a rival organisation, in 2019.

Mr Varadkar admitted leaking the pay deal to his friend and NAGP president, Dr Maitiu O Tuathail.

He said he recognised his actions were “not best practice”, but insisted he had nothing personally to gain from the leak and said he did so in order to secure backing for the deal from all GPs.

The decision by Sinn Fein to table a motion of no-confidence was based on that party’s hope that something would turn up that would help them use today for an aggressive political attack on the Government. It was a 100% cynical moveMichael Martin

Mr Varadkar was backed on the issue by his coalition partners in Fianna Fail and the Green Party, following a Dail statement early last week.

But Sinn Fein tabled the motion last Friday, with the party’s leader Mary Lou McDonald saying they were doing so because she believed the Tanaiste had failed to properly account for his actions.

Speaking during the debate on Tuesday the Taoiseach accused Sinn Fein of engaging in a “100% cynical move” by tabling the motion.

Mr Martin said: “The decision by Sinn Fein to table a motion of no-confidence was based on that party’s hope that something would turn up that would help them use today for an aggressive political attack on the Government. It was a 100% cynical move.”

The Fianna Fail leader added: “They’ve been left scrambling by the reality that nothing significantly has changed since last week’s two-hour session.”

He claimed Sinn Fein representatives had been “telling anyone who would listen” that the debate would be proceeded by some “blockbuster revelations” that would justify the motion, but that had not happened.

Mr Martin said Mr Varadkar’s actions were a “legitimate point of public concern”, one that TDs had the right to ask questions about.

But he said: “Nobody has demonstrated any personal gain from how the document was distributed and public policy was not adversely impacted.”

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Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney claimed the motion in the Tanaiste was a “political smear campaign” by Sinn Fein that was “masquerading as whistleblowing”.

Mr Varadkar is someone he has “grown to know well and trust” and the motion was put forward to “capitalise on a mistake made by the Tanaiste”, he said.

Mr Coveney added Mr Varadkar’s “motivation” was well meaning but that he did “take a short cut”.

“He should not have mailed the document to the NAGP president. He should instead have had them briefed officially,” Mr Coveney said.

He added: “It is obvious now that for some what is ongoing is not about establishing facts or truth, but about sustaining a political smear campaign masquerading as whistleblowing to inflict maximum political damage.”

Mary Lou McDonald told the Dail the failure of Mr Martin to act against the Tanaiste over the leaking of the document was a “failure of leadership”.

The Sinn Fein leader added that a no-confidence motion was the “only sanction” available to them to use as members of the opposition.

Those defences collapsed on the floor of the Dail last week. The truth is there is no acceptable reason for what happenedMary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein

She claimed the Government had responded with “name-calling and spin” but said no amount of “mud-slinging by Fine Gael can alter the facts”.

“While he was Taoiseach he leaked confidential Government information to his friend,” she said.

“He can offer no credible reason for his actions. His claim that he was acting in the interest of the taxpayer or the info was already in the public domain were thread-bare.

“Those defences collapsed on the floor of the Dail last week. The truth is there is no acceptable reason for what happened.”

Ms McDonald added Mr Varadkar had made a “conscious decision”.

During the debate the Tanaiste reiterated his apology for leaking the documents.

The Fine Gael leader said it was the first time he had faced a motion of no-confidence and it had caused him to “reflect” on his actions.

He accused Sinn Fein of tabling the motion to “keep the story in the public eye for another week” and to “distract from other issues”. He claimed the “truth” was that for Sinn Fein politics was “just a game”.

“Every flash of outrage, every passionate speech, every tear held back is a tactical move. Their spokespeople are articulate and confident but totally insincere,” he said.

“When we make politics a game we devalue public life and let down people we’re meant to be serving.”

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