'Not unlawful' Leo Varadkar admits giving IMO pay deal to rival group was 'not best practice' but rejects wrongdoing
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has confirmed he gave a document outlining a GP pay deal agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a rival representative group for doctors.
In a lengthy statement, Mr Varadkar admitted he did not follow “best practice” and “regrets” he did not provide a copy of the agreement to the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) in a “more appropriately formal manner”.
The Tánaiste’s statement comes following the publication of allegations in The Village Magazine that said Mr Varadkar sent the NAGP president member Maitiú Ó Tuathail a copy of a document marked ‘confidential/not for circulation’ outlining a proposed new GP contract the Government agreed with the IMO.
In the statement, Mr Varadkar said he believed that the deal was a positive one for GPs and that the Government wished to see implemented.
“He hoped to use Dr. Ó Tuathail’s influence to encourage all GPs to accept it including those represented by NAGP,” it says.
“The Agreement had been negotiated with (and was therefore already in the possession of) the IMO, and the publication or circulation of the Agreement to the members of the IMO was within the discretion of the IMO, which had already issued a press release setting out its essential content.
“The provision of the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail requires to be seen in the context of the potential unfairness of one representative body for General Practitioners (the IMO) having access to the Agreement at a time when the other representative body (the NAGP) did not,” it adds.
The statement says the Government “had publicly committed to keep the NAGP informed as to the progress of negotiations on the Agreement”.
“Therefore,the provision of a copy of the agreed and publicly announced Agreement by the Taoiseach to the President of the NAGP was honouring a political commitment previously made by the Government.
"It is important to emphasise that by that point, the Agreement had been agreed and its content had been publicly announced previously,” it adds.
“By definition, given that it had been extensively negotiated between Government and the IMO, many people outside Government in the IMO were already well aware of its content, and the essential details of the Agreement had been described in press releases which were reported upon in the national media.”
The Fine Gael Press Office statement says the provision of a copy the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail, had the “legitimate objective” of trying to ensure all GPs signed up the new deal.
“The Tánaiste accepts that the provision of the Agreement by an informal communication channel to the President of the NAGP was not best practice and he regrets that he did not ensure that it was provided in a more appropriately formal manner,” it says
“There was however, nothing in any way unlawful about the provision of the Agreement to the President of the NAGP,” it adds.
The statement also says the Village Magazine published an “article in its current edition which is both inaccurate and grossly defamatory”.