Leo Varadkar speaks out over claims he could face criminal investigation over leak

Leo Varadkar grilled on confidential document leak in Oireachtas

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The Tanaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) denied he broke any laws when he sent a doctors’ pay deal to friend of his in April 2019 when he was serving as Taoiseach (prime minister). The agreement between the State and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) was strictly confidential and the leaking led to a Garda inquiry. He has since apologised.

In recent weeks gardai upgraded it to a criminal investigation, but Mr Varadkar has said he does not believe any charges will be brought against him.

Following the upgrade, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called for Mr Varadkar to be sacked if he refused to resign.

She said his actions amounted to an “abuse of power” and said “politically this can’t be tolerated”.

The Fine Gael leader hit out at what he called “misinformation” and “inaccurate” claims surrounding the controversy.

Asked if he should step down from his position of deputy prime minister if he is charged, he said: “I don’t believe it’s going to happen.”

After he sent the document to his friend Dr Maitiu O Tuathail two years ago, the then-leader issued an apology – but insisted no laws were breached.

Dr O Tuathail was at the time head of the IMO’s rival organisation, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

Appearing on The Michael Reade Show on LMFM on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar was asked, hypothetically, if a member of government should step aside temporarily if criminal charges are brought against them.

He replied: “I’m not contemplating that. I’ve been trying to avoid creating new stories about this issue.

“So, you know that’s not something I’m considering.

“I don’t believe it’s going to happen.

“What I’m saying is it’s not going to arise.”

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Asked to clarify if he meant that charges will not be brought against him, he replied: “That’s correct.”

Seeking to dispel mistruths circulated after his leak, the Tanaiste said the document was neither a contract, draft contract, cabinet memo nor a “budget secret”.

He added: “So a lot of the things that have been said about this are inaccurate and continue to be inaccurate.

“Again, this is part of the difficulty that I face. There’s been so much misinformation about this.”

He insisted the inquiry would not distract him from his job.

Last night Mr Varadkar told members of his parliamentary party that Ireland’s mounting Covid cases were “a definite cause for concern”.

The coalition government between Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael and Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail will have to take the rise in cases into account before any decision on easing restrictions are made next month, the meeting was told.

Ministers are due to decide on April 5 if lockdown measures can be rolled back.

Case numbers, hospital admissions, intensive care unit numbers and the progress of the vaccination programme will all be considered before any decision is made.

Mr Varadkar said more than 700,000 vaccines have been administered nationwide and more than 10 percent of the population have received one vaccine.

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