Government colleagues back Varadkar, but any more revelations and all bets are off
The Leinster House rumour mill is whirring with even greater than usual vigour, promising further juicy developments in the story
Varadkar’s claim is that he was helping a process along that was in the public interest; to the Opposition it looks like he was helping a friend
There was strong backing for Leo Varadkar all day Monday from his Government colleagues.
Fine Gael Ministers paraded through radio and television studios armed with talking points supplied by Varadkar’s aides.
The Taoiseach emerged into a chilly quadrangle in Government Buildings to express his confidence in his coalition partner.
But in both public and private, support for Varadkar was qualified: as things stand they are all happy to stand by the Tánaiste.
But if further revelations emerge about Varadkar’s decision to share a confidential draft contract agreed with the IMO with a friend, Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail, who headed up a rival organisation, then all bets are off, sources say.
Whether it is of much interest to those outside the bubble is debatable: if so there is not much evidence of it
This does not, to put it mildly, display a great deal of trust in Varadkar on the part of his colleagues in Government, and is evidence of how relationships with the Fine Gael leader have been undermined by the revelations over the weekend.
The Leinster House rumour mill is whirring with even greater than usual vigour, promising further juicy developments in the story that has electrified the political bubble since it broke on Saturday.
Whether it is of much interest to those outside the bubble is debatable: if so there is not much evidence of it. Nonetheless, there remains considerable nervousness in Government on the subject.
Even the Taoiseach pointed out that he had not subjected the Tánaiste to a “cross-examination” about the affair. The implication is that he will take Varadkar’s word. But if Varadkar’s account is contradicted by further information that would be another thing.
“I still think it was more recklessness than malice,” said one Government insider. “But if new details emerged then it would be a different situation.”
The Tánaiste looks forward to a make-or-break day in the Dáil. He faces three dangers: one, that his account of events is contradicted by new information; two, that an illegal act on his part is demonstrated; three, that it was established that there was material or financial gain for the recipients because he gave them the document.
At present, despite the chariness around Government on the issue, none of these bars has been cleared.
Varadkar will face a series of specific questions: if he was trying to promote acceptance of the contract by the National Association of General Practitioners, why did the NAGP do nothing with the contract when he gave it to them?
Why was this not discussed with the then minister for health Simon Harris?
Why did he choose to provide the document in a clandestine manner?
Varadkar is also likely to be asked if he has leaked – or “shared” – other similar documents in the past.
He will be asked to detail his contacts with Ó Tuathail throughout this period and subsequently: has he provided Ó Tuathail with any other assistance?
Did he provide the NAGP with any other assistance?
Varadkar’s claim is that he was helping a process along that was in the public interest; to the Opposition it looks like he was helping a friend. He may not change minds in the Dáil, but he needs to convince people watching that he was acting in the public interest.
Opposition parties will do everything they can to embarrass him about the actions of his friend Ó Tuathail, using the text messages revealed in Village magazine and perhaps others. It is likely to be excruciating; perhaps it deserves to be.