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Varadkar’s decision to share confidential GP contract ‘not appropriate’ – Martin

The Taoiseach said the agreement should have been made public much earlier.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin outside Government Buildings in Dublin this morning on his way to a press conference where he is likely to be asked about accusations that the Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, leaked confidential governement documents (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin outside Government Buildings in Dublin this morning on his way to a press conference where he is likely to be asked about accusations that the Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, leaked confidential governement documents (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin outside Government Buildings in Dublin this morning on his way to a press conference where he is likely to be asked about accusations that the Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, leaked confidential governement documents (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Tanaiste’s decision to share a confidential document about a GP contract was “not appropriate”.

Mr Martin said that, while Leo Varadkar has accepted it was “not best practice”, he does not believe the Fine Gael leader has broken any laws.

The Tanaiste has been accused of leaking documents relating to 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).

Speaking at Government Buildings on Monday, Mr Martin said the agreement should have been public much earlier and that is the lesson to be learned.

Mr Varadkar has denied allegations he acted unlawfully, branding them as “inaccurate” and “grossly defamatory”.

It should have been made public much earlier. In hindsight, that’s the lesson to be learned from thisMicheal Martin

He acknowledged that, while he passed information via an “informal communication channel”, he said the information was already in the public domain at that stage.

Mr Varadkar, who has come under intense pressure from opposition parties, is expected to make a statement and answers questions in the Dail on Tuesday.

Mr Martin sad: “This was not the appropriate way to deal with a document of this kind in terms of the manner in which it was sent to the (former) president of the NAGP (Dr Maitiu O Tuathail).

“My own view generally on an agreement of this kind is that, given the amount of public money involved, this should have been public knowledge much earlier.

“These agreements are not your normal type of a contract, in terms of a commercial contract, but rather it relates to the public health service and the expenditure of the health service.

“It should have been made public much earlier. In hindsight, that’s the lesson to be learned from this.”

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Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Mr Martin said that no one made any financial gain over the sharing of the document.

“There was no material advantage to any person,” he added.

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Mr Martin said the Tanaiste will “answer comprehensively” any issues in the Dail, adding that he has confidence in Mr Varadkar.

However, Mr Martin refused to say whether he thinks Mr Varadkar should apologise for the incident.

He also said that, if the document was published sooner, it would have “averted” the incident.

Mr Martin said there were efforts made to get all GPs to agree to the new contract, adding that it was important to advance “the situation”.

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 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 April 11 and 16 2019”.

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Louise O’Reilly and Eoin O’Broin (Niall Carson/PA)

Louise O’Reilly and Eoin O’Broin (Niall Carson/PA)

Louise O’Reilly and Eoin O’Broin (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly said the party has written to the Tanaiste asking for all information and correspondence between the Government and the NAGP to be published.

“This is a very serious situation for Fine Gael. This is about insiders and how they get looked after and how they get information and how they have on speed dial people in position of power,” she said.

“This is what Fine Gael does – it moves to protect those in the golden circle and keep them informed. I think we have seen an attempt to circle the wagons.

“That’s not going to work, that is not what people want. They want to know the full facts and how this happened. They don’t buy that it’s done in the public interest.

“It was extremely beneficial to them (NAGP) to have that particular piece of documentation because it meant they could go out and encourage their members to renew their membership.”

Party colleague Eoin O’Broin said it is “disappointing” that Fine Gael ministers have been trying to “brush this matter under the carpet”.

“This document wasn’t shared, it was a scandalous breach of negotiating protocol but also of trust and faith by the then taoiseach,” he said.

“We need all of the documentation relevant to this matter in the public domain.”

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