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Statement Leo Varadkar apologises for 'errors of judgement' over document leak

"Sometimes people like to exaggerate the nature of their relationships and to inflate their own influence or claim to speak for a person they don't and to claim they have greater access than they really have"

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has apologised in the Dáil for 'errors of judgement' over the leak of the IMO contract he gave to then NAGP President Maitiu Ó Tuathail.

The Tánaiste is currently addressing over the his decision to leak an unpublished GP contract agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to their rival union, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

“I welcome this opportunity to set the record straight, refute some of the allegations against me and also to apologise for my errors of judgement.

“Rivalry (between the IMO and the NAGP) was often bitter and it made it hard to reach agreements. The NAGP wanted to be at the table but the government decided to negotiate with the IMO alone. The opposition was very critical of this at the time.

“It’s important to understand that GPs are not employees but contractors and have an individual entitlement to accept or reject any contract, regardless of a ballot.

Mr Varadkar also said that 'little will get done' without informal chains of communication such as his text messages with Dr Ó Tuathail. "And we all know it."

"Sometimes people like to exaggerate the nature of their relationships and to inflate their own influence or claim to speak for a person they don't and to claim they have greater access than they really have. Friends and acquaintances only claim to be closer to you than they are and this is clearly a big part of this story."


Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

"If we're honest," the Tánaiste says, "most of us are familiar with that phenomenon too.

"I do accept that the provision of the agreement by an informal channel to the president of the NAGP was not good practice. It was an error and one I accept sole responsibility for.

"I can understand how it called people to question my judgement but I hope having heard my explanation no fair minded person will question my motivation or integrity.

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"I do regret it and I am sorry for the controversy and the annoyance that my actions have caused including to members of the medical profession, the IMO, members of government and to the House.

"I know I have made mistakes and wanted to learn from them. I have made errors of judgement but I have never been guilty of being motivated by selfish financial gain."

“When I became Taoiseach I said I had unfinished business in the area of health, and I meant it and still mean it. I wanted to use the influence of the Taoiseach’s office to secure a new contract with GPs to reverse the FEMPI cuts for in return a commitment to provide better services in the community for more patients, free at the point of use,” The Tánaiste said.

“It would also make General Practice financially viable again.

“I took an active and personal interest in the talks, was frustrated at times when they were not progressing quickly enough and I kept in personal contact with a number of GPs who I felt were opinion leaders through all of this. I was determined to get the deal done and ensure it secured universal acceptance across the GP community.

“I wanted what was best for general practice, for patients and the public. The suggestion that from any of my actions that I stood to gain personally in any way is false, without foundation and deeply offensive.

“Following lengthy negotiations, an agreement was reached [with the IMO] on April 3. ‘The fine details’ were published by the IMO on April 5. The details of it were published extensively in a press release on that day.

"There was also an additional five-page document released by the IMO with all the financial details."

"The IMO believed they struck a very good deal for their members and publicised the fact.

"On Tuesday April 9, the Minister for Health brought a memo to cabinet informing us 'engagement had concluded with the IMO'.

The Tánaiste says there were minor changes made to the deal after this but it was not brought to the attention of the cabinet as they were not considered major.

"The fact is, all the relevant information was in the public domain and being discussed at GPs in meetings."

"At this time, Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail was the President of the NAGP and I posted a copy of the agreement to him between April 11 and April 16. I did so on a confidential basis believing that publication was imminent anyway. I wanted his opinion on it. Hoping having seen how favourable it was, it would remove any opposition from the NAGP.

"Providing them with the information did not confer to them any advantage on the IMO or anyone else."

"In providing a copy of the agreement, I was honouring a political commitment to keep all parties informed. The agreement being made, the question was how to get GPs to sign up to it.

"It has been alleged that the was something improper or even criminal in my connection with Maitiu Ó Tuathail. This is not the case."

The Tánaiste says the GP has been called a Varadkar cheerleader. "Yes, there are many instances of his support for me, but there are also plenty of the opposite."

He pointed out instances where Dr Ó Tuathail was critically of Mr Varadkar's government on record.

When asked by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty where the Tánaiste received the document to give to the NAGP President, Mr Varadkar said he received it from the Department of Health and that Dr Ó Tuathail had requested the document.

The Tánaiste said he read the first initial copy of the document given to him by the Department of Health, then put it in his recycling bin, but requested another copy of the document "because he wanted to read it again."

Pearse Doherty raised the point that he "just happened to ask for it again around the same time frame that Maitiu Ó Tuahtail wanted a copy".

Deputy Doherty asked the Tánaiste did he tell anybody in his own department, the Department of Health or the IMO about giving the document to Dr Ó Tuathail and Mr Varadkar said no.

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