Taoiseach stands by Varadkar as Sinn Féin claims position ‘untenable’
McDonald calls for FG leader to resign and FF youth wing says he should stand aside during Garda inquiry into leak
A spokesman for Leo Varadkar said at the weekend: ‘The gardaí have not been in contact with the Tánaiste about this matter.’
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has described Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s position as “untenable” and called for him to resign amid renewed controversy over his leak of a confidential draft of a GP contract.
Over the weekend it emerged that gardaí have upgraded a preliminary inquiry into the leak to a formal investigation.
Ms McDonald claimed that the leaking of the document by Mr Varadkar “is the worst of stroke politics” and she added: “He should have been sacked.”
She also said on Twitter: “The criminal investigation now under way underlines the seriousness of this case.”
Ms McDonald added: “Leo Varadkar’s position was untenable last November and is untenable now.”
Since news of the formal Garda investigation emerged senior Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Ministers have expressed support for Mr Varadkar to remain in his role while the investigation is completed.
A spokesman for Taoiseach Micheál Martin responded to Ms McDonald’s remarks saying: “The Tánaiste made a statement and apology on this matter in Dail Eireann, which was fully accepted by the Government.
“The Taoiseach has confidence in the Tánaiste and has nothing further to add to the comments he made previously.”
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar has been contacted for a response.
However, the youth wing of Fianna Fáil has called for the Tánaiste to stand aside during the investigation.
‘Abuse of power’
Ms McDonald said Taoiseach Micheál Martin should have sacked Mr Varadkar in November over the leak claiming it was a “ blatant abuse of power while he [MR VARADKAR]was Taoiseach.”
She said Sinn Fein tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Varadkar in November and she argued that “everything that has happened since then has proven that we were correct.”
Ms McDonald said he has only remained in office: “because Fianna Fáil, the Greens and a number of Independents are keeping him there”.
She accused Mr Varadkar of giving a “cock and bull” story to the Dáil and claimed he has “been forced to change his story repeatedly as more and more information has come to light.”
Ms McDonald added: “However, our position remains as it was in November. The Fine Gael leader needs to go.”
Ógra Fianna Fáil has called for Mr Varadkar to stand aside “without prejudice” until the Garda investigation has concluded.
The organisation’s president Tom Cahill has written to Government chief whip, Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers, saying it is “appropriate that senior members of Government who are the subject of a Garda investigation would temporarily stand aside pending the outcome of that investigation”.
Mr Cahill told The Irish Times Ógra Fianna Fáil decided to call for Mr Varadkar to stand aside after discussions amongst its own officer board in consultation with members and there was no involvement by Fianna Fáil TDs.
Entitled to own views
Asked about the intervention by the party’s youth wing, a Fianna Fáil spokeswoman said: “Ógra Fianna Fáil are an autonomous group within the party and are entitled to have their own views.
“But from the party’s perspective, the Tánaiste is entitled to due process.
“He has already said he would make a statement to Gardaí and it would be inappropriate to comment any further when a Garda investigation is ongoing.”
Senior Fianna Fáil Minister Michael McGrath told RTÉ Radio yesterday that he doesn’t believe it is necessary for Mr Varadkar to stand aside during the investigation.
Gardaí investigating the leak are expected to submit a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the next two months at the conclusion of their investigation.
It will then be a decision for the DPP whether to charge Mr Varadkar with any offence, although gardaí are likely to issue a recommendation with their report.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said at the weekend: “The gardaí have not been in contact with the Tánaiste about this matter.
Last month, on foot of media reports, his solicitors contacted the Garda to confirm his willingness to meet them and provide a statement.
His legal advice is that he has committed no offence and looks forward to the matter being concluded.”
The investigation relates to revelations, published in Village magazine last year, that Mr Varadkar, who was then taoiseach, 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 the 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 representing GPs that is now defunct. Mr Varadkar apologised for his actions in the Dáil, and survived a Sinn Féin vote of no confidence.
Mr Varadkar 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.
It is understood the focus for gardaí is establishing whether a criminal offence was committed under the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018.