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Tánaiste quizzed Leo Varadkar is questioned by gardaí about leak of confidential Government document

Investigators also examined his mobile phone as part of the probe

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has been questioned by gardaí over the leaking of a confidential Government document, while detectives also took possession of the Fine Gael leader’s mobile phone after he handed it over in a major upscaling of the investigation.

The Sunday Independent revealed today that Mr Varadkar was questioned for several hours at a Dublin garda station on Friday April 9 by detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI). The investigators also examined his mobile phone as part of the probe.

He met gardaí by appointment and was questioned for several hours by officers in the presence of his solicitor. His statement to gardaí over the controversy was voluntary.

The Tánaiste is under investigation over his leaking of a confidential copy of the Government’s proposed new GP contract with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to his friend, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, in 2019.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said last night: “The Tanaiste met the gardaí voluntarily by appointment earlier this month. He made a full statement and answered all questions. On advice the Tanaiste cannot say anything further until the investigation is complete. He has made a full account to the Dáil on this matter and looks forward to it being concluded.”

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Maitiú Ó Tuathail

Maitiú Ó Tuathail

Maitiú Ó Tuathail

Dr Ó Tuathail was the head of the rival National Association of General Practitioners at the time.
He has now also been interviewed by investigating officers, it is understood.

Dr Ó Tuathail met gardaí by arrangement at Terenure garda station on Monday April 5 and provided a voluntary statement following questioning.

He was also accompanied by a solicitor. Sources say that a “major focus” of Dr Ó Tuathail’s questioning was the exact nature of his friendship and his history with Mr Varadkar, as well as specifics about how the Tánaiste leaked the GP contract to him.

Former health minister Simon Harris provided gardaí with a statement in relation to the probe in February.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Dr Ó Tuathail or Mr Harris.

A spokesman for Garda headquarters declined to comment when contacted, saying: “In relation to your enquiry, An Garda Síochána does not comment on ongoing investigations.”

As detectives from NBCI have now spoken to both the Tánaiste and Dr Ó Tuathail — considered the key people in the probe — they will now begin their preparation of a file over the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

It is understood that gardaí intend to outline all the facts of the case to the DPP and it will be left up to the State prosecutor to make a decision on whether or not charges should be brought against Mr Varadkar.

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Detectives can make a recommendation in any file submitted to the State prosecutor on whether criminal charges should be proffered. But in this instance, gardaí are expected to just outline the facts of the case, leaving the matter entirely up to the DPP to adjudicate on, which is also within the Garda remit.

Gardaí are examining whether the leak is a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

The official complaint, made by a whistleblower at the Department of Health, centres around the leaking incident which took place in April 2019.

Assistant commissioner John O’Driscoll, who oversees Special Crime Operations, supervised an extensive initial review of the complaint.

It was later deemed that a full investigation into the controversy was warranted. Mr O’Driscoll heads the NBCI, which was duly tasked with leading the ongoing Garda investigation.

Mr Varadkar apologised in the Dáil last November after it emerged that he provided a confidential copy of the proposed new GP contract to his friend Dr Ó Tuathail.

The document, which was marked ‘confidential’, had been agreed between the Irish Medical Organisation and the Government, and was shared by Mr Varadkar with Dr Ó Tuathail, who was then the head of a rival GP group.

In February, Mr Varadkar offered to meet gardaí to help them with their then preliminary inquiries into the leaking of the confidential document.

The Tánaiste said at the time that his legal advice was that he had “committed no offence” and that he was willing to provide a “full statement” on the circumstances surrounding the leaking of a copy of the document.

“I am aware that a complaint was made against me last November,” he said on February 15.

“This was widely reported at the time. The gardaí have to do their job and investigate that complaint. I would expect nothing else.

"They have not been in contact with me about the matter but I have, through my solicitors, made contact with them and I have offered to meet with them, answer any questions they may have, and provide a full statement on the matter.

“The facts are no different to those set out by me in the Dáil last November. My legal advice is that I have committed no offence. I look forward to the matter being concluded.”

Mr Varadkar survived a Dáil motion of no confidence tabled by Sinn Féin in November last year on foot of the controversy.

At that point, he acknowledged that what he did was “not best practice” and an “error of judgment”.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil: “There was nothing selfish, corrupt, dishonest or illegal in what I did.”

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