Taoiseach and Greens say they have confidence in Varadkar
Sinn Féin calls for resignation of Tánaiste over leaking of GP contract
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: he has insisted he has not broken the law. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography
The Taoiseach and the Green Party have both said they have confidence in Leo Varadkar in the wake of Sinn Féin’s call for him to resign amid renewed controversy over his leak of a confidential draft of a GP contract.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil are backing the Tánaiste, Mr Varadkar, with the party saying he is entitled to “due process”.
However, there have been suggestions from some within Fianna Fáil that if he faces charges on the back of a Garda investigation into the leak, Mr Varadkar should step aside as a Minister for the duration of any court proceedings.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Fianna Fáil source told The Irish Times that calls for Mr Varadkar to go now were “unfair”, but if there were charges brought against him his position would be “untenable” until the matter came to a conclusion.
A number of Fianna Fáil TDs, including from the party’s ranks of Ministers, expressed similar views.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald’s call for Mr Varadkar to resign now came after it emerged at the weekend that gardaí have upgraded a preliminary inquiry into the leak to a formal investigation.
The investigation relates to revelations in Village magazine last year that while he was taoiseach Mr Varadkar improperly leaked a confidential copy of a proposed new general practitioner (GP) contract to a friend, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.
The contract contained details of a deal the government had provisionally agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation.
At the time Dr Ó Tuathail was president of the National Association of GPs (NAGP), a rival organisation that is now defunct.
Mr Varadkar apologised for his actions in the Dáil, and survived a Sinn Féin vote of no confidence. He has insisted he has not broken the law, and defended his actions by saying he had circulated the contract to encourage NAGP members to agree to it.
On Monday Ms McDonald claimed that the leaking “is the worst of stroke politics”, and said Mr Varadkar “should have been sacked”.
Ms McDonald accused Mr Varadkar of giving a “cock and bull” story to the Dáil, and said Sinn Féin’s position is that “the Fine Gael leader needs to go”.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach responded, saying: “The Tánaiste made a statement and apology on this matter in Dáil Éireann, which was fully accepted by the Government. The Taoiseach has confidence in the Tánaiste and has nothing further to add.”
A Green Party spokesman also said it has confidence in Mr Varadkar.
Fine Gael Minister of State Peter Burke said the party “won’t be lectured by anyone in Sinn Féin”, accusing the rival party of “a cavalier disregard to the law.”
Mr Burke claimed the party bypassed political funding laws in the Republic of Ireland in order to avail of a donation from the late English millionaire William Hampton which could yield more than €4million for Sinn Féin.
The Fine Gael TD also referred to a file being sent to the North’s Public Prosecution Service after a police investigation into alleged breaches in Covid-19 regulations at the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey.
Mr Burke also claimed the Sinn Féin “failed to act” when Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley was at the centre of controversy over social media posts.
He said: “Apparently members like Brian Stanley don’t need to account for themselves before the Dáil.”
Mr Burke said: “The Tánaiste set out a full account of his actions last November. He apologised and the Dáil voted to accept his explanation with a motion of confidence.”