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'did not happen' Harris and Donohoe reject claims they met doctor at centre of Varadkar leak controversy

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FINANCE Minister Paschal Donohoe and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris have rejected claims they met with Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail last year with then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The claims are in WhatsApp conversations published by Village Magazine on Monday afternoon.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is facing a Dáil motion of no confidence over his leaking of the pay deal struck with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to Mr Ó Tuathail, a friend who was President of the rival National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) at the time.

Sinn Féin tabled the motion which is to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow.

Mr Varadkar has insisted that the GP contract was essentially completed at the time he shared it with Mr Ó Tuathail and that his motivation in giving him the document was to encourage NAGP members to sign up to the deal.

He also suggested in the Dáil last week "Sometimes people like to exaggerate the nature of their relationships, to inflate their own influence or to claim to speak for a person when they do not - to claim to have greater access than they really have."

And he said: "We are not close friends. Dr Ó Tuathail is the kind of friend I would meet two or three times a year".

Village Magazine this afternoon published messages between Mr Ó Tuathail and Chay Bowes which it claims suggests that Mr Varadkar met Mr Ó Tuathail more than two or three times over the course of around a year.

Mr Bowes is a businessman who was trying to get a venture called Community Hospital Ireland (CHI) off the ground at the time of the communications.

One message from Mr Ó Tuathail on June 30, 2019 says: "Heading for lunch with Leo and Paschal now".

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Another on September 17, 2019 says "Just having dinner here with Leo and Paschal. Can I call in an hour?"

In a WhatsApp message dated 5 February, 2019 Mr O Tuathail claimed he met Mr Varadkar and then Health Minister Simon Harris after the Ireland-England rugby match in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

This afternoon a spokesperson for Mr Donohoe said: "Minister Donohoe can confirm that neither of these alleged meetings took place."

Mr Harris’s spokesperson said the alleged meeting he was said to be involved in also did not happen.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said: "Many of these encounters simply did not happen" and claimed: "the magazine has its facts wrong again."

"We are not going to make any further comment," he added.

Attempts to contact Mr Ó Tuathail have been made but he has not immediately responded.

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