Politics

Time to go, Leo! Varadkar told to quit as criminal probe launched into leaking of document

Leo Varadkar grilled on confidential document leak in Oireachtas

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Micheal Martin, who replaced him as Taoiseach last year, is being urged to sack Mr Varadkar if the 42-year-old refuses to quit his role as Ireland’s Tanaiste – equivalent to deputy Prime Minister. Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein, described the leak two years ago of a doctors’ pay agreement to his friend “an abuse of power” and said “politically this can’t be tolerated”.

Mr Varadkar – well known in the UK as a staunch critic of Brexit during his time as Irish leader – has admitted that in April 2019, while he was Taoiseach, he sent a copy of a doctors’ pay deal between the State and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to his friend, Dr Maitiu O Tuathail.

Dr O Tuathail was head of the rival organisation, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), at the time.

Ms McDonald said: “This was a political stroke, pure and simple. It was an abuse of power by the then-Taoiseach designed to give advantage to a friend.

“This was about doing favours for insiders. Politically this can’t be tolerated.

“The whole matter is now being investigated by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) and the Gardai need to be allowed to do their job.

The Fine Gael leader needs to go

Mary Lou McDonald

“However our position remains as it was in November. The Fine Gael leader needs to go.”

Mr Varadkar has apologised for leaking the document, admitting his actions were “not best practice”, but continues to deny he broke any laws.

At the weekend it emerged that Gardai examining the case had upgraded their inquiry to a criminal probe.

The National Bureau of Crime Investigation (NBCI) is examining if there has been a breach of anti-corruption legislation, or the Official Secrets Act.

Speaking today, Ms McDonald said Mr Varadkar should have been resigned when the story first broke in November, describing his position as untenable.

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She added: “Last November we tabled a motion of no confidence in the Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar because we believed that he should have been sacked and everything that has happened since then has proven that we were correct.

“He has only remained in office because Fianna Fail, the Greens and a number of independents are keeping him there.

“He gave a cock and bull story to the Dail last November and has been forced to change his story repeatedly as more and more information has come to light.”

The former Taoiseach has told the Dail – Ireland’s main legislature – he gave a copy of a pay agreement between the State and a doctors’ organisation to a rival group of GPs.

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The Director of Public Prosecutions will decide whether or not any laws may have been broken and whether or not criminal charges are appropriate.

Mr Varadkar has denied any wrongdoing and offered to meet with gardai to answer any questions they may have.

His spokesman said: “The gardai have not been in contact with the Tanaiste about this matter.

“Last month, on foot of media reports, his solicitors contacted the gardai to confirm his willingness to meet them and provide a statement.

“His legal advice is that he has committed no offence and looks forward to the matter being concluded.”

The pressure on Mr Varadkar is increasing, with Ogra Fianna Fail, the youth wing of Mr Varadkar’s coalition partners, calling on him to step aside until the investigation concludes in a letter to the Government Chief Whip, Jack Chambers.

Ogra Fianna Fail president Tom Cahill said: “We are not interested in the internal politics of Fine Gael, nor do we believe this matter is relevant to the stability of Government.

“We are concerned that the second highest-ranking member of our Government is under Garda investigation for the leaking of a pay agreement.

“We believe that it is appropriate that a senior member of Cabinet, who is under investigation by the Gardai, should temporarily stand aside pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Mr Varadkar leads the Fine Gael party and is himself a qualified doctor. He is Enterprise Minister in the current coalition Government.

Garda headquarters has said it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

The Government won a confidence motion in Mr Varadkar on the issue in November.

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