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garda probe Leo Varadkar says he believes he will NOT face criminal charges over leaked contract

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has said he does not believe criminal charges will be brought against him over the leaking of a confidential Government document.

Mr Varadkar has also criticised “inaccurate” reporting around the investigation, claiming there has been “so much misinformation” about the story in recent weeks

The Fine Gael leader told The Michael Reade Show on LMFM on Wednesday that he did not believe criminal charges would arise from garda investigation when he was asked if he would step aside should that happen.

“I don’t contemplate that happening,” he said.

When pressed and asked if, hypothetically, criminal charges were taken against any member of Government did he believe they should step aside for a period of time, Mr Varadkar responded: “I am not contemplating that and I've been trying to avoid creating new stories about this issue so that's not something I’m considering. I don’t believe it’s going to happen.”

He added: “What I am saying is it’s not going to arise.”

Asked by Mr Reade if by this he meant that charges won’t be taken against him, the Fine Gael leader responded: “That’s correct.”

Mr Varadkar was speaking amid an ongoing garda investigation into a criminal complaint against him over the leaking of a document outlining the proposed new GP contract with the Irish Medical Organisation to his friend Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, who was the head of the rival National Association of General Practitioners in April 2019

The matter has been upgraded to a formal criminal investigation by An Garda Síochána in recent weeks. Mr Varadkar has yet to be interviewed by detectives but has offered to speak with them under caution.

Mr Varadkar has apologised for the manner in which he provided the document to Dr Ó Tuathail but has said his legal advice is that no offence has been committed.

Speaking to LMFM, Mr Varadkar said the document, which was marked ‘confidential/not for circulation’, was not a contract or a draft contract.

“First of all, there’s been a lot said about this and a lot of it isn’t accurate or true. I gave a full account about all of this to the Dáil both in November and January and won a confidence motion on it in the Dáil,” he said.

“It was not a contract, nor was it a draft contract, it wasn’t a cabinet document, not a budget secret so a lot of the things that have been said about this are inaccurate and continue to be inaccurate.

“A contract is a legal document that two or three parties sign and are bound by it was not a contract or a draft contract. But again this is part of the difficulty that I face that there’s been so much misinformation about this.

“So all I know at this stage is that a complaint was made to the gardaí back in November, the gardaí have to do their job and investigate that complaint. They took statements from at least one government minister - Minister [Simon] Harris - in January which is how I heard that there was an investigation underway.

“My solicitors contacted the gardaí at that point to say that I would be willing to give a statement or be interviewed or whatever they need and I’ve heard nothing since.

“And since then all I am relying on is what I see in the papers, leaks to the papers ironically and most of them and many of them are not accurate. So like that is the situation at the moment as far as I am concerned.

“What I am not allowing it to do is distract me from my job and I don’t think anyone in Government is being distracted from their jobs in that regard.”

He went on to say that the “vast majority of people would be of this view” that gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will make a decision on whether to bring charges, should be allowed to do their job. He said that he had not been contacted by gardaí about the matter “at all” and that he could not contemplate anything beyond that.

Mr Varadkar added: “It is going to distract people, it will certainly distract the Opposition and it will distract people in the media too, and that’s fine. It won’t be distracting me from my job, I guarantee you that, nor is it distracting anyone else in Government. We’re very busy doing the people’s businesses and that’s what were paid to do.”

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