Barry Cowen says Varadkar 'entitled' to make a mistake over GP contract

Barry Cowen
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Digital Desk Staff

Former minister for agriculture Barry Cowen has said Leo Varadkar is “entitled to make a mistake” and does not believe “a grave should be prepared” for the Tánaiste as a result of the contract controversy.

Mr Varadkar shared confidential information with a rival body during Government negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in April 2019, it emerged following an article in Village Magazine.

As the Irish Times reports, Mr Cowen, who was sacked as Minister for Agriculture following controversy over a drink-driving incident, said that, Mr Varadkar had made a mistake “with good intentions, if that is possible”.

“I wouldn’t dance on his grave,” he said, “I don’t believe a grave should be prepared on that in this instance.”

Mr Cowen’s intervention will be seen as significant as he was removed from office after a political controversy earlier this year.

Inadvertent mistake 


“It would appear it was a mistake with good intentions if that’s possible, in that you can imagine the anxiousness to get that process (the GP contract) to bed,” Mr Cowen said.

“It’s an inadvertent mistake he should learn from and move on, there’s more important issues facing the country right now.”

His comments come as Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe who was speaking on RTÉ radio said that the draft deal was shared by the Tánaiste “after agreement had been reached on that particular new GP (General Practitioners) contract.”

"What we were looking to do was get agreement from GPs to its implementation,” he said. “It was after a press conference had been done on the agreement.

"He is very aware of the duty he has to the Dáil to answer questions. He wants to explain why he acted like he did," said Mr Donohoe.

He added: "By virtue of the statement yesterday, I know he feels himself it could've been done differently, all he did was driven by trying to get agreement to a new GP contract. He and I would acknowledge the way it was shared, it could've been done differently."

Full access

Meanwhile, the National Association of General Practitioners says it received a copy of the finalised, agreed and announced programme for chronic disease management from the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in mid-April 2019.

In a statement tonight, the former Chairman and President of the NAGP Dr Andrew Jordan and Dr Maitiu O Tuathail say they could not adopt a position on this programme as a union, without full access to the details that it contained.

They say the NAGP was aware of the main content of the proposed new contract being sought by the State.

They say it was wrong for one group of GPs to have access to the details and for another group of GPs not to have equal access to that information, given that the NAGP and its members were involved in its formation.

It is after Tanaiste Leo Varadkar admitted he provided the NAGP with a copy of an IMO GP Contracts agreement in April of last year.

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