The State’s political ethics watchdog has been called to investigate the leaking of a document by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to a group representing GPs.
Rise TD Paul Murphy has written to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) to request that the watchdog urgently examine the issue, according to the Irish Times.
Mr Varadkar passed a draft of a new contract for GPs negotiated between the government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in April last year to a friend who was head of a rival group, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), with the revelation published in Village magazine over the weekend.
The material published by Village Magazine and confirmed by the Tánaiste’s statement speaks to a culture of insiders helping insiders
In his letter to Sipo, Mr Murphy said that “the material published by Village Magazine [on the leak] and confirmed by the Tánaiste’s statement speaks to a culture of insiders helping insiders, with confidential information provided to an individual as a result of his friendship with, and political support for, Mr Varadkar”.
“The suggestion that giving the document to Maitiú Ó Tuathail ‘did not breach any confidence’ as is stated in the Tánaiste’s statement is manifestly inaccurate,” Mr Murphy writes.
— Paul Murphy (@paulmurphy_TD) November 2, 2020
“Regardless of the press statements and press events that were held [at the time], the document itself was not in the public domain.
“The document itself was marked ‘Confidential’. If the document was in the public domain, why would the NAGP be interested in having the document? Why would the then Taoiseach take the trouble of sending it to his friend?
“Therefore the document was clearly a confidential document and giving it to Dr Ó Tuathail was a breach of confidence.”
In a lengthy statement issued on Saturday evening Mr Varadkar rejected the magazine’s claims that he may have broken the law by passing on the document.
He said he passed on the draft document in a bid to secure wider backing among doctors for the new GP contract.
Mr Varadkar accepted that his provision of the document, which he had couriered to the home of Dr Ó Tuathail, was “not best practice” and he expressed regret “that he did not ensure that it was provided in a more appropriately formal manner”.
Dr Ó Tuathail said in a statement that the document was given to him as part of a pre-existing arrangement to share information on the deal.