Who are the main players in the Varadkar document leak?

The GP, the magazine and the entrepreneur linked to the Tánaiste’s pay-deal leak

Leo Varadkar has denied he broke the law. File photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Leo Varadkar has denied he broke the law. File photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

 

The news that Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential document on a €210 million GP pay deal, as well as the strenuously denied allegation that he broke the law in doing so, emerged in Saturday’s edition of Village Magazine.

The publication was formerly owned by journalist Vincent Browne before being taken over by one of his initial partners in the venture, barrister Michael Smith, who has run the magazine from his Ormond Quay office-cum-home since the late 2000s.

Mr Smith first came to prominence in 1995 when he, along with fellow barrister (and now a judge of the General Court of the EU) Colm Mac Eochaidh offered a £10,000 reward for information on planning irregularities, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Flood tribunal.

Since then, it has painted itself as a champion of unloved stories from outside the mainstream, and contrarian, sometimes fringe, viewpoints. Mr Smith says it “aims to challenge, but also has an overt ideology”.

“All media have tacit or covert ideologies, but we’re explicit about it and we’re a campaigning magazine driven by equality of outcome, sustainability, and accountability.”

He says it is an ideology that is only applied “after we have established the facts”.

It has, like many publishers, found itself on the wrong end of High Court proceedings, including from former Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan, and far-right activist Gemma O’Doherty.

Ms O’Doherty formerly contributed to the magazine although Mr Smith said Village “didn’t allow her ventilate any ideology or know what her ideology was,” at the time. He later published articles strongly criticising her, which led to the High Court proceedings.

Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, former head of the National Association of General Practitioners. File photograph: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, former head of the National Association of General Practitioners. File photograph: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Leaked document

The Varadkar story emanated from documents supplied by a healthcare entrepreneur and corporate troubleshooter called Chay Bowes – mostly screengrabs of text conversations purportedly involving Mr Bowes, former president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) Maitiú Ó Tuathail and other senior members of that group.

These text conversations included images of the leaked document, and of messages apparently between Mr Ó Tuathail and the Tánaiste, as well as messages from Mr Ó Tuathail characterising his relationship with the Fine Gael leader.

Mr Bowes, formerly of the Army medical corps, founded a company called Tara Healthcare, which for a time provided home-health treatments funded by the HSE before being sold to the VHI, had been drafted in by the NAGP to deliver a report on financial governance and operations. The NAGP collapsed in disarray into liquidation amid recriminations last summer.

Paddy Cosgrave is organiser of the Web Summit. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Paddy Cosgrave is organiser of the Web Summit. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Paddy Cosgrave, organiser of the Web Summit, introduced Mr Bowes to Village Magazine, Mr Smith said. “[Mr Cosgrave] recommended to Chay to come to Village with roughly the story that was published. He felt we would be a good home for this story; we can cover stories differently and we can work with people who want to expose scandals”.

Mr Cosgrave, who has been a vocal critic of the Government and the political system, and also settled a High Court action taken by Mr Ó’Tuathail – who received the leak from Mr Varadkar – earlier this year. Mr Cosgrave also provided “strategic advice” on the article, Mr Smith said. *

Asked for comment, Mr Cosgrave responded with an emoji with a zipped mouth. When details of his alleged involvement were put to him, he responded with a “thumbs up” emoji.

Mr Smith has said he has “more information” to come on the Varadkar story. Asked for details, he said the magazine is “going through a whole range of correspondence that Chay received, mostly from Maitiú Ó Tuathail.”

* November 4th, 2020: Mr Smith has asked us to clarify that the advice provided by Mr Cosgrave was after Village published its article.