Government expected to easily win vote of confidence in Leo Varadkar

Some on Opposition benches sceptical about political impact of Sinn Féin move

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:   “There’s enough there for people who believe the worst of Leo or Fine Gael,” one Opposition source said. “But there’s nothing that’s going to hang him tomorrow.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “There’s enough there for people who believe the worst of Leo or Fine Gael,” one Opposition source said. “But there’s nothing that’s going to hang him tomorrow.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Opposition is expected to attack Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s argument that he leaked a confidential GP pay deal to secure support for it during a confidence motion in the Dáil today.

However, the Government remains bullish about the vote tomorrow, called by Sinn Féin after a controversy over the leak of the deal with the Irish Medical Organisation to Maitiú Ó Tuathail, then president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

Some on the Opposition benches were sceptical about the political impact of the vote, a sense which deepened further after more allegations published about the affair by Village magazine, which broke the original story, were disputed by Ministers involved, as well as Dr Ó Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar, Dr Ó Tuathail, Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe all disputed an account published by the magazine, which was largely based on text messages purportedly sent by the former NAGP president.

“There’s enough there for people who believe the worst of Leo or Fine Gael, ” one Opposition source said. “But there’s nothing that’s going to hang him tomorrow.”

Sinn Féin is also expected to focus on what it says are 35 differences between the copy given to Dr Ó Tuathail and the final published version, some elements of which it will argue were significant – especially changes the party believes were made on how compliance and performance with the goals outlined in the agreement was to be evaluated.

The party will ask why the NAGP was frozen out of discussions for months on end if it was the policy of the Government to bring all GPs with them on the issue, and why the document wasn’t passed on to the NAGP.

Broader critiques

Opposition parties are expected to offer broader critiques of Mr Varadkar’s performance as minister, not confined to the leaking issue. Some sources on the Opposition benches were sceptical of Sinn Féin’s decision to force a confidence vote on the leaking issue,

The Government is expected to win the vote easily with the support of all its TDs. Political sources had speculated whether Marc MacSharry, the Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim, might vote against the Government, but he has not indicated he will do so.

The Government on Monday put down a motion of confidence in the Tánaiste which will overrule the Sinn Féin motion. The move by the Government prompted a row on the Dáil’s business committee, which a source said was “the most fractious” seen in this term.

Misled the committee

While the move is standard, Opposition members on the committee reacted angrily, while the Government argued that Sinn Féin had misled the committee by not disclosing last week its intention to move a motion of no confidence.

The Dáil will first sit briefly at Leinster House this Tuesday afternoon, before relocating to the larger Convention Centre, which is needed to accommodate a vote of all TDs. Several committee sittings planned for Tuesday have also been cancelled to free up time for the vote.

Fine Gael has also sought to move the political focus onto Sinn Féin. The Seanad will debate a motion by Senator Barry Ward on the donation of €4 million to the party from the estate of William Hampton.

Mr Ward has asked that the Seanad note that the maximum donation allowable under Irish electoral law is €2,500. Mr Ward said he is also asking that Sipo be given new powers which he says could be used to target what he described as “Sinn Féin’s practice of using lax Northern Irish regulations on political donations to accept massive political gifts”