| 17.6°C Dublin

'Lame excuses' Leo Varadkar’s sharing of GP deal documents ‘inappropriate and wrong’, Sinn Fein TD says

The Tanaiste was accused on Saturday of leaking ‘confidential’ documents relating to a GP contract.

Close

The opposition has accused Tanaiste Leo Varadkar of inappropriate actions over his sharing of ‘confidential’ documents (Julien Behal/PA)

The opposition has accused Tanaiste Leo Varadkar of inappropriate actions over his sharing of ‘confidential’ documents (Julien Behal/PA)

The opposition has accused Tanaiste Leo Varadkar of inappropriate actions over his sharing of ‘confidential’ documents (Julien Behal/PA)

The opposition has accused the Tanaiste of “hiding behind lame excuses” in his defence of sharing information about a GP contract deal with a rival doctor organisation.

Sinn Fein’s health spokesman claimed Leo Varadkar’s actions were “not just informal” but “inappropriate and wrong”.

David Cullinane said he did not accept Mr Varadkar’s explanation and that the Tanaiste “must come clean” and accept that he should not have handed over the documents.

The Tanaiste was accused on Saturday of leaking “confidential” documents of an agreement reached between the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to rival organisation the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

Mr Varadkar has denied the allegations and branded them “inaccurate” and “grossly defamatory”.

He acknowledged that he did pass information via an “informal communication channel” and admitted it was “not best practice”, but he insisted there was nothing “unlawful” about his actions because the information was already in the public domain at that stage.

Close

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Mr Varakdar denied wrongdoing and said he had sought legal advice on the claims contained in an article in the current edition of Village magazine.

Mr Cullinane said: “I don’t think that it is acceptable that the Tanaiste is hiding behind lame excuses.

People have to have faith that the Tanaiste can act in good faith when he's acting on behalf of the State and this does strike to the very heart of his credibility.David Cullinane

“The facts for me here are clear that Leo, as the leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach at the time, passed on a document to a friend about sensitive negotiations involving hundreds of millions of euro of taxpayers’ money.

“It was clearly a document that was marked confidential.”

Mr Cullinane told RTE’s This Week: “He’s hiding behind excuses here and he has to come clean and accept that this was absolutely and completely unacceptable and inappropriate. He talked about informal communications channels. It wasn’t just informal. It was inappropriate. It was wrong.”

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

He added that the Tanaiste “knows in his heart that this was wrong”.

“People have to have faith that the Tanaiste can act in good faith when he’s acting on behalf of the State and this does strike to the very heart of his credibility,” he said.

The Finance Minister said it was “not common” practice for the Government to share negotiation documents and that was why the Tanaiste had said “very clearly that it wasn’t best practice” and “acknowledged it could have been done differently”.

Paschal Donohoe told RTE that Mr Varakdar had only shared the IMO GP contract after negotiations had concluded, after a press conference had been done on the agreement and after the details had been broadly circulated.

“A key point that was guiding what he did, and our efforts to reach an agreement with GPs at that point, was firstly to try to improve the services available to patients through a new GP contract and secondly to get as many GPs as possible to enrol into the new contract,” Mr Donohoe said.

The Finance Minister also said he had worked with Mr Varadkar on “countless negotiations” and that at all times the Tanaiste had been “guided by trying to do the right thing”.

The Fine Gael leader has said he will answer questions in the Dail over the extent to which the information was public.

Mr Donohoe said the Taoiseach had spoken to Mr Varadkar about the matter on Saturday and that Micheal Martin had “outlined his concern in relation to the way the information had been shared”.

The Finance Minister also said Mr Varadkar was “very aware” of the duties he has to the Dail to answer questions from opposition parties, and that any questions would “of course be answered”.

The article published in Village magazine’s November edition alleges that Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach passed on a “confidential” agreement made in 2019 with the IMO to Dr Maitiu O Tuathail, the then head of the NAGP.

In a statement, Mr Varadkar said the details of an agreement on GP contractual reforms between the Department of Health, the HSE and the IMO were “publicly announced at the beginning of April 2019” and therefore in “the public domain” when he provided a copy of the agreement to Dr O Tuathail.

The statement said the Fine Gael leader “did provide a copy of the agreement to Dr O Tuathail on a date between 11th and 16th April 2019”.

But it said: “The nature of that agreement was not something that was confidential or sensitive after 6 April 2019. On the contrary, this information was in the public domain.”

In a statement on Saturday evening, the Village Magazine stood behind their story and said Mr Varadkar’s statement “provokes dramatically more questions than it answers”.

The magazine claims Mr Varadkar’s actions were in “breach of the codes of conduct for Dail members and ministers”.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy