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Higher Education Minister Simon Harris and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has given a statement to gardaí investigating Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s admission that he leaked a €210m GP contract.

Mr Harris provided gardaí with a signed written statement on his knowledge of the events leading up to Mr Varadkar’s decision to send a copy of the contract to the former National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) Dr Maitiu O Tuathail.

Mr Harris, who was health minister at the time of the leak, is not under investigation and provided the statement to gardaí voluntarily.

He was not involved in leaking the contract and was unaware that Mr Varadkar sent the document to Dr O Tuathail in April 2019.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said: “it would not be appropriate for the minister to discuss an on-going An Garda Siochana investigation.”

Gardaí are currently carrying out a preliminary investigation into whether Mr Varadkar breached the Official Secrets Act in providing the contract to Dr O Tuathail.

Assistant commissioner John O'Driscoll, who oversees special crime operations, has ordered an extensive review of a complaint received by gardaí about the leak.

Central to the investigation is establishing how confidential the GP contract was when it was sent to Dr O Tuathail.

Gardaí are expected to speak to Department of Health and HSE officials as part of its investigation into the controversy which resulted in Mr Varadkar addressing the Dáil and issuing a public apology.

Members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), who the contract was agreed with, are also expected to be spoken to by gardai.

Dr O Tuathail confirmed he has not spoken to gardaí.

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The Tánaiste’s spokesperson has not responded to requests for comment since details of the investigation emerged.

The controversy emerged when the Village Magazine published text messages between Dr O Tuathail and Mr Varadkar in which the then Taoiseach asked the GP for his address so he could send him a copy of a contract agreed between the Government and IMO.

The contract was marked confidential when it was posted to Dr O Tuathail. However, details of the contract had been press released by the IMO.

The NAGP were not involved in the contract negotiations and Mr Varadkar said he wanted to get the organisation on board to ensure more doctors signed up to the deal which provided GPs with new fees for patient services.

In WhatsApp conversations with his NAGP colleagues, Dr O Tuathail said “Leo constantly pulling strings for me” and “Leo always delivers”.

The texts were provided to the Village Magazine by businessman Chay Bowes who was asked to carry out an audit of the NAGP before the organisation was eventually wound down.

During a two hour grilling in the Dáil in November, Mr Varadkar apologised for his “error in judgement” but insisted he was “not a close friend” of the former NAGP president.

“I regret that I did not ensure that it was provided in a more appropriately formal manner. It was an error and one I accept sole responsibility for,” he said.

“I know it has caused people to question my judgement. But I hope, having heard my explanation, no fair-minded person will question my motives or integrity.”

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