Varadkar had copy of GP pay deal waiting in car on arrival from Brussels
Documents show Tánaiste asked for agreement he later showed to friend to be sent to Baldonnel
Leo Varadkar, who was then taoiseach, sent a copy of GP pay deal agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation to his friend Maitiú Ó Tuathail, who was then head of a rival GPs’ group, in April 2019. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Mr Varadkar, who was then taoiseach, sent the document to his friend Maitiú Ó Tuathail in April 2019.
Dr Ó Tuathail was then head of a GPs’ group set up to rival the Irish Medical Organisation, which had negotiated the new agreement with the government. Mr Varadkar apologised in the Dáil before Christmas for the leak but he has insisted that it was not confidential or significant information.
Documents released to Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty under Freedom of Information, and first reported on by The Irish Examiner, show that Mr Varadkar sought to have a hard copy waiting for him as he emerged from the Government jet around the same time he was looking for Mr Ó Tuathail’s home address.
On the April 10th, 2019, at 8am, Mr Varadkar wrote to one of his officials “do you have a copy of this? SH [Simon Harris] gave it to me but I put it in the recycling bin having read it. Want to look at it again.”
The official responded 28 minutes later and said: “I have a copy. I will scan a copy for email and leave a printed version on your desk.” Mr Varadkar responded and said: “if possible, get it sent out to me in Baldonnel this morning or tonight, if not, no problem.” Later that evening at 5pm, she responded to say it would be in the car and that it was subject to minor amendments.
“The agreement will be in the car when you arrive in Baldonnel this evening. Health have been in contact to say that there are still exchanges with the IMO on some language in the document, so there may be minor differences in the final document.” Mr Varadkar responded and asked “wondering when they are going to publish it/release it to members?” to which he was told: “health are just seeking an update on this.”
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: “There is nothing new in this material. The information released is consistent with the Tánaiste’s account to the Dáil in January.”
The government had, after lengthy negotiations, concluded an agreement on a new contract with the IMO on April 3rd, 2019. The deal was announced by the IMO on April 5th, and by the government on April 6th. The IMO issued a summary document to its members, with the main points of the agreement.
At this time, Mr Varadkar was given a copy of the draft agreement by the then minister for health, Mr Harris. Cabinet approved the agreement the following Tuesday, April 9th. Mr Varadkar posted the document to Mr Ó Tuathail’s home address in Clonskeagh, on April 15th or 16th.
Two days later, Mr Ó Tuathail sent his colleagues in the National Association of General Practitioners a picture of the document. “To be fair,” he wrote, “Leo always delivers.” Mr Varadkar apologised for his actions in the Dáil, and survived a Sinn Féin vote of no confidence. He insisted he had not broken the law, and defended his actions by saying he had circulated the contract to encourage NAGP members to agree to it.
However, there was renewed focus on the matter in January when The Irish Times revealed that Mr Varadkar had posted the contract at a time when Mr Harris was trying to obtain a finalised copy.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he provided a copy of the document to Dr Ó Tuathail “most likely on 15th or 16th April” 2019. Departmental records show that Mr Harris’s adviser emailed senior officials on April 15th wondering “if the document has been completed and if the minister can have a copy”. She also asked: “Is it possible to publish the document?” A few minutes later, one of the officials responded with a one-line email: “The agreement document has not yet been finalised.”
Mr Varadkar’s spokesman insisted that he had sent an earlier draft of the contract to Mr Ó Tuathail, while Mr Harris was seeking a later version from his officials.