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Varadkar accused of ‘grubby activity’ over leaking of documents

The Social Democrats called on the Taoiseach to undertake an immediate review of the code of conduct for office holders.

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Leo Varadkar has been accused of ‘grubby activity for grubby purposes’ over his leaking of confidential documents (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Leo Varadkar has been accused of ‘grubby activity for grubby purposes’ over his leaking of confidential documents (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Leo Varadkar has been accused of ‘grubby activity for grubby purposes’ over his leaking of confidential documents (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

The Tanaiste has been accused of engaging in “grubby activity for grubby purposes” by leaking a Government document relating to a GP contract deal with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a rival organisation.

Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall said the past few days had been “damaging” to the Government and by extension “damaging to politics”.

Leo Varadkar has come under fire this week for passing documents regarding a GP pay deal with the IMO to rival union the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

He admitted leaking details of a pay deal but he said he did so in the interest of securing backing for the deal from all groups of general practitioners.

Ms Shortall said: “We have a senior member of Government exposed for engaging in what can only be described as grubby activity for grubby purposes by leaking a confidential document to a rival union while the Government was engaged in negotiations, and those negotiations were still in process with a licensed union.”

The Dublin North-West TD made the comments during Leaders’ Questions in the Dail on Wednesday.

Ms Shortall described Mr Varadkar’s actions as “wrong” and asked the Taoiseach to call on the Tanaiste to admit it as such.

She claimed Mr Varadkar had “ludicrously” dressed the issue up as having a legitimate objective and “laughingly” claimed that he was honouring Government commitments.

“This insults people’s intelligence,” she said.

“I think most people saw this episode for what it was. It was patently untrue for the Tanaiste to claim that. He engaged in a deliberate distortion of the truth.”

Ms Shortall called on the Taoiseach to undertake an immediate review of the code of conduct for office holders.

In response the Taoiseach said there was an obligation on all members to adhere to the code of conduct.

Micheal Martin added he had made it “very clear” what the Tanaiste did was “not best practice, inappropriate and wrong”.

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Mary Lou McDonald told the Dail Mr Varadkar’s claim that he was acting in the public interest had been “blown out of the water” and alleged that he had been trying to help out a friend.

Ms McDonald said: “The truth is the document leaked by Mr Varadkar was not the final document and amendments were made by the time IMO voted on the contract on May 19 2019, so the Tanaiste’s claim that he was acting in the public’s interest has been exposed as absolute spin.

“This was a dig-out for a friend and a political ally whose organisation was in freefall and who needed the information contained in that contract to try and fight for his organisation’s survival.”

She maintained Leo Varadkar’s alibi was “absolutely comprehensively dismantled” on the floor of the Dail and bears “no credibility”.

Mr Varadkar outlined his reasoning for his actions in the Dail on Tuesday evening.

This is not some sort of private commercial project that would benefit someone materially or in a money way, that is clearly not the case here and I think that should be acknowledgedMicheal Martin

The Taoiseach said he accepted the Tanaiste’s actions were an error of judgment, adding that he accepted his apology.

“This is not some sort of private commercial project that would benefit someone materially or in a money way, that is clearly not the case here and I think that should be acknowledged,” Mr Martin added.

Asked by Ms McDonald whether he expected Irish people “to take it on the chin” or whether he was going to take action on the matter Mr Martin said he was not accountable for the last Government.

Mr Martin added: “Sometimes it’s dangerous to stand on the high moral ground and that’s where Deputy McDonald has positioned on this issue and people’s alleged connections. It’s a dangerous place to be. I think you and your movement should approach it with a greater degree of humility.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he will seek records related to the controversial leak of documents by the Tanaiste.

At the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday, Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane asked to see all documents passed between the Department of Health, the Health Minister and the HSE to the NAGP in April 2019.

This covers the time period when Mr Varadkar has admitted giving a confidential memo to Dr Maitiu O Tuathail of the NAGP.

Mr Donnelly said he would seek any records related to his department but had no remit over any documents passed between then-Taoiseach Mr Varadkar and the NAGP.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail on Tuesday he received the leaked document from the Department of Health.

He said one copy was provided to him from then minister for health, Simon Harris, and a second copy was provided to him by one of his advisers.

He said the document was requested from him by Dr O Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar said he supplied the document on a confidential basis, and that it was not shared more widely by the NAGP.

The leaked document contained a draft agreement reached between the Department of Health, the HSE and the IMO in April last year.

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