Varadkar damaged by cronyism revelations

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Sinn Féin is to table a motion of no confidence in Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar after he offered no real defence for leaking a confidential medical contract to a friend involved in negotiations for a rival group.

In a report by the Village magazine this week, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail said “Leo always delivers” and uploaded an image of the contract he received from him, clearly marked ‘Confidential - Not For Circulation’, to a chat group being used to discuss the negotiations.

On Tuesday, Varadkar admitting sending Dr Ó Tuathail the document but brushed off accusations of cronyism, describing him as “a friend, not a close friend”.

Known by some as ‘Leo the Leak’, the Tánaiste claimed in the Dáil that it was only time he had ever passed on a confidential document, and that he only intended to facilitate the contract process, despite it being outside his remit.

He conceded that what he had done was “not best practice” and apologised for “errors of judgement”, but denied he had broken the law. And in a dig at Ó Tuathail, he said that “sometimes people like to exaggerate the nature of their relationships, to inflate their own influence, or to claim to speak for a person when they do not”.

The Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin blankly backed his coalition partner, drawing faced fresh criticism, much of it again from within his own party. Asked if he had confidence in Varadkar, Mr Martin was unequivocal and claimed no illegality had taken place, despite substantial evidence to the contrary.

Martin’s inability to challenge the Fine Gael leader has been linked to that party’s much stronger position in opinion polls. He also repeated a Freudian slip referring to Varadkar as ‘Taoiseach’.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Varadkar’s defences had “fallen apart”.

“Each and every alibi advanced by Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael ministers has been exposed as spin. All correspondence, documents, files and notes relating to this scandal must now be made public,” she said in a tweet.

The party has now tabled a Dáil motion of no-confidence in the Tanaiste, to be debated next Tuesday, which has won the support of the other opposition parties.

Ms McDonald said: “The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has decided to sit on his hands and take no action. The Opposition cannot sit idly by, so we have acted - this is the right thing to do and it is the necessary thing to do.”

She said there was no acceptable reason for what happened.

“This was not incompetence or a mistake - this was a conscious decision by Leo Varadkar to give his friend insider information,” she said.

“The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has decided to take no action. The Opposition cannot sit idly by, so we have acted. This is the right thing to do and it is the necessary thing to do.

“We didn’t take this decision lightly. This government has only been in office for just four months and over that time we had the basis of taking many motions of no-confidence due to gross incompetence and bad decision making. We choose not to do so because of the challenges facing the country.

“But this is different. This is more of the old Fine Gael behaviour where it is about who you know and insiders getting access to the corridors of power. It comes after Michael D’Arcy has moved on from his role as Minister of State to the world of high finance in the same way Brian Hayes moved from politics to the banking sector; where he is now their chief lobbyist.

“All of this further undermines the public’s confidence in politics and is totally unacceptable to us.”

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