Taoiseach dismisses calls for AG to be consulted over whether Varadkar broke law

Tánaiste is accused in Dáil of ‘grubby activity for grubby purposes’ in row over GP document leak

The Taoiseach came under renewed Opposition pressure after the Tánaiste’s address to the Dáil over the GP document leaking

The Taoiseach came under renewed Opposition pressure after the Tánaiste’s address to the Dáil over the GP document leaking

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has rejected a Sinn Féin call to consult the Attorney General about whether Tánaiste Leo Varadkar broke the law in relation to the release of a confidential document negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a rival GP group.

Mr Martin told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald “I’ve no intention of embroiling the Attorney General or anyone else” in the row over Mr Varadkar’s release of the document to president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) Dr Maitiu O Tuathail.

The Taoiseach came under renewed Opposition pressure after the Tánaiste’s address to the Dáil on Tuesday in a question-and-answer session on his release of the confidential document in April last year.

During sharp exchanges Ms McDonald said the Tánaiste’s core alibi that he gave the document to the NAGP to get doctors on board was “blown out of the water” and dismantled on the floor of the Dail.

Mr Varadkar had admitted in the Dáil that he breached Cabinet confidentiality and the claim he was acting in the public interest has been exposed as absolute spin, she said.

Ms McDonald, calling for the Attorney General to be consulted, said “this was a digout for a friend and a political ally, whose organisation was in freefall, and who needed the information contained in that contract to try and fight for his organisation’s survival”.

The leaking of the document was part of a “pattern of behaviour” because Mr Varadkar admitted in the Dail to breaching Cabinet confidentiality, she said.

“This is the politics of the cosy club, the politics of favours for friends,” she said, accusing the Tanaiste and Fine Gael of misleading the public in Mr Varadkar’s defence. She added that “this story is not over”.

Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall said the Tánaiste engaged in “grubby activity for what can only be described as grubby purposes”.

Mr Varadkar was involved in a distortion of the truth and a number of Ministers went on the airwaves repeating this distortion and “trotting out cynically crafted spin lines”.

The Tanaiste had described his actions as an error of judgment “but it was also wong”, Ms Shortall said. She asked if the Taoiseach accepted that Mr Varadkar’s actions were wrong and “will you ask the Tanaiste to admit this publicly”.

Ms Shortall called on the Taoiseach to review the code of conduct “which says office holders should respect confidences entrusted to them in the course of their official duty”.

The Taoiseach said there was an obligation on all members of the current Government to adhere to that code in the spirit and in the principle of that code. “I hold strongly by that.”

Mr Martin added: “I made it clear that what the Tánaiste did was not best practice. It was inappropriate, and it was wrong.

“It was the wrong way to do things. I have said that. I think the Tánaiste has accepted that and he has apologised for an error of judgment on that.”

He said that fact that Mr Varadkar “has apologised is important, and he dealt with the issue at some length, and that is important”.

Insisting that “the essentials of the agreement were out there” in the public, Mr Martin warned the Sinn Féin leader that “it’s a dangerous place to be on the high moral ground” and said she should approach issues “with a greater humility”.

The Taoiseach referred to an article on the unmasking of Stakeknife, an IRA informer, and on British intelligence and the infiltration of the IRA. “If I was in your party or movement I’d be looking around every day and wondering who my friend is.”

Mr Martin stressed that what happened occurred during the last government and “I cannot be held accountable for what the previous Government did”.