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Varadkar insists he had nothing to gain from leaked IMO documents

The Tanaiste apologised for ‘errors of judgment’ but denied he had ‘anything to gain personally’.

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Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting (PA)

Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting (PA)

Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting (PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said accusations that he had anything to gain by leaking confidential documents are “without foundation and deeply offensive”.

Mr Varadkar has admitted leaking details of a pay deal with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to rival union the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

However he said he did so in the interest of securing backing for the deal from all groups of general practitioners.

He said he welcomed the opportunity to set the record straight, to refute some of the allegations against him and to “apologise for my errors of judgment”.

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Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting (Niall Carson/PA)

He told the Dail: “I wanted to use the influence of the Taoiseach’s office to secure a new contract for GPs to reverse the FEMPI cuts in return for a commitment to provide new and better services in the community for more patients, free at the point of use.

“It would be a big step forward towards achieving universal health care in Ireland which I believe in.”

He added: “I took an active and personal interest in the talks, was frustrated when they were not progressing quickly enough, and I kept in personal contact with a number of GPs who I felt were opinion leaders during all of this.

“I was determined to get the deal done, and ensure it secured universal acceptance in the GP community.”

He said his actions were taken in the interest of public health.

He added: “The suggestion that any of my actions that I had anything to gain personally in any way is false, without foundation and deeply offensive.”

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 Maitiu O Tuathail of the NAGP.

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The Tanaiste was responding to questions from Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty.

He said he received a copy of the document and read it before placing it in the recycling bin.

He subsequently requested a second copy. Asked why he did this by Mr Doherty, Mr Varadkar replied: “I wanted to read it again.”

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

On the issue of his friendship with Maitiu O Tuathail, Mr Varadkar said he had other friends who are GPs and had not supplied them with copies of the document.

He said: “I didn’t give the document to my friends who are GPs. I only gave it to one person because he was the leader of the NAGP, not because he was my friend.”

Mr Doherty rejected Mr Varadkar’s explanation as to why he leaked confidential documents to the NAGP.

He told the Dail: “The confidential document was not complete. Your friend requested that document.

“This isn’t a junior official, Tanaiste. You were the head of Government. This is old boys stuff. This is not something that you just apologise for.

“This is favour for friends and I don’t buy your analysis of it.”

Mr Varadkar also told the Dail he had been in touch with Dr O Tuathail three times since the story became public.

He said on the first occasion he contacted Dr O Tuathail as the story was breaking to find out the detail of it.

On the second occasion he contacted him to confirm the dates involved.

On the third occasion he said Dr O Tuathail contacted him to ask if the NAGP should make a statement, which Mr Varadkar said he should not comment on.

He said: “Yes we are friends. But there are friends and there are friends. We are not close friends. Dr O Tuathail is the kind of friend that you meet two or three times a year.

“We’re not best mates or anything like that, I know that’s the narrative that’s trying to be created.”

Mr Varadkar told the Dail that Dr O Tuathail “made out that he was closer to me than he was”.

Your buddy, your pal, the guy with the Leo T-shirt, asked you for a copy of it and you said yes. Do you not feel that you were reckless in your behaviour?”Aodhan O Riordain, Labour Party

He was responding to Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain, who said his contact with Dr O Tuathail since the story broke could be construed as an effort to coordinate their statements.

He queried texts from Dr O Tuathail in the Village article, which read: “Leo constantly pulling strings for me. You’ve no idea.”

Mr O’Riordain said he found the Tanaiste’s explanation on the issue “utterly incredible”.

He said: “Your buddy, your pal, the guy with the Leo T-shirt, asked you for a copy of it and you said yes. Do you not feel that you were reckless in your behaviour?”

Mr Varadkar said he was “wrong in the way I went about it” and that he did it “almost as a shortcut”. He said it was “an error of judgment and a mistake on my part”.

Mr Varadkar said he has not decided whether to take legal action against the magazine which published the story on the leaked documents.

Mr Varadkar had previously described the article which appeared in Village as “grossly defamatory”.

He told the Dail on Tuesday that he has “very strong legal action that the front page is defamatory”.

Asked if he had decided to pursue legal action, he said: “I have advice on that, I haven’t decided yet. They appear to be goading me.”

He described Village magazine as a “fringe publication” with no editorial board. He added: “Suing them would be like suing somebody on Twitter.”

Earlier, Mr Varadkar was accused of giving a “dig-out” to a friend by leaking a confidential document about a GP contract.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald rejected claims the decision to leak the details to a third party were motivated by public interest.

She accused Mr Varadkar of abusing his then position as Taoiseach.

Dr O Tuathail, a friend of Mr Varadkar, is a former president of the NAGP, a rival organisation to the IMO, which was part of the negotiations.

Ms McDonald told the Dail: “It was giving a dig-out to a friend, it’s as crude as that.

“A friend whose organisation was in competition with the IMO for members, for their subscriptions and for influence.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin responded to say the leaking of the document was “not appropriate” and was “the wrong way to do things”.

It was clear that Deputy Varadkar abused his position as Taoiseach Mary Lou McDonald

The Fianna Fail leader said a lot of details about the GP contact were already in the public domain following a press release issued by the IMO.

“The essential details were out there but as I have said myself, it should have been published as early as possible,” Mr Martin added.

He told the Dail he asked his General Secretary to have a preliminary look for any correspondence between his department and 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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