Motion of no-confidence in Varadkar tabled by Sinn Féin to be debated next week
Move follows controversy about Tánaiste’s leaking of new GPs’ contract last year
Leo Varadkar: Enmeshed in controversy over the leaking of a GP draft document. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
A motion of no-confidence in Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will be debated in the Dáil next week, with Sinn Féin seeking to keep the controversy about the Fine Gael leader leaking a GP contract to a doctor friend last year burning.
Mr Varadkar made a Dáil statement on the issue on Tuesday – in which he acknowledged his errors of judgment and he apologised – and then engaged in a question-and-answer session with Opposition TDs on the subject.
Fine Gael’s Coalition partners in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party backed Mr Varadkar after he apologised and explained his actions, which were first reported by Village magazine last weekend.
Mr Varadkar admitted sending a draft copy of a GP contract agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation to the rival National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP). He said the main details were in the public domain and that he wanted to secure further support for the deal among doctors.
Sinn Féin’s motion of no-confidence in the Tánaiste will be taken during the party’s Private Members’ time in the Dáil next Tuesday.
“We took the decision due to the seriousness of this situation and the fact that the Tánaiste has faced no sanction nor has he given a credible account for his actions in providing confidential information to a friend,” the party said in a statement.
“This motion will allow the Dáil to say to the people that no one is above being held to account and that there are consequences when you act as Leo Varadkar has done.
“We will be setting out very clearly that doing favours or giving preferential treatment to a circle of insiders is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”
The motion will be supported by Aontú, which is led by former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín. Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said his party would support the motion of no confidence, but that the party believes there are bigger issues facing the State at the moment. It is understood the Social Democrats and other Opposition groups will also support the motion.
A spokesman for the Tánaiste said Mr Varadkar had “dealt with all the issues in the Dáil this week”.
“This motion clearly shows that Sinn Féin isn’t interested in the truth. They’re only interested in political mudslinging, attacking the Irish government at a time of national crisis and diverting attention from their unanswered questions about their receipt of public money in the North,” the spokesman said.
Given the numbers in the House, Government sources were sceptical about the potential for the no confidence vote to cause meaningful damage to the coalition. Green Party Ministers believe the parliamentary party will vote against the motion, while some Fianna Fáil TDs dismissed the move as a waste of time.
“There’s so many other important substantial policy issues they could use their time on. They have a responsibility to use their time wisely, but if they use it to reheat last week’s controversy, it just shows they’re only interested in Punch & Judy style politics,” said James Lawless, the Kildare North FF TD.
However, there remains a risk that the motion could rankle with some Fianna Fáil backbenchers who have been angered by having to defend Mr Varadkar.
Marc MacSharry, who strongly criticised the Taoiseach at a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting for backing Mr Varadkar, would not be drawn on his intentions, saying only that “the party will presumably consider the matter next week”.
A second Fianna Fáil TD who had been critical of the party’s stance ventured that the party’s TDs would be “all too afraid of an election” to vote against the Government.