Justice Minister Helen McEntee has defended Leo Varadkar as she noted that the controversial GP agreement ‘leak’ scandal will not damage the Tanasite’s role within Fine Gael.
Mr Varadkar hit headlines over the weekend after Village Magazine revealed that he had sent a GP contract agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to his friend, Maitiu O Tuathail.
Dr O Tuathail was, at the time, the president of rival group the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).
Mr Varadkar confirmed that he sent the document — marked ‘confidential and not for circulation’ — to Dr O Tuathail in April 2019. While it has been announced, the full details of the pay deal had not been fully disclosed.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Justice Minister Helen McEntee defended Leo Varadkar over the apparent ‘leak’.
Although she admitted that the deal had not been fully shared and that Mr Varadkar did not follow ‘best practice’, the Meath East TD defended her party leader.
Minister McEntee did not, however, address the claims suggesting that Leo Varadkar had broken the law.
‘We had an agreement that was reached,’ she told RTE.
‘A decision was made by the government to negotiate with the IMO as they were the main representative body for GPs.
‘However, they were not the only representative organisation — You had the NAGP and you also had GPs who weren’t members of either.
‘This was reached on April 3. Soon after, the IMO published the fine details [on April 5]. This included financial information, sensitive information.
‘You had members of the IMO who were now presenting the deal to GP groups, phoning dozens of GPS and, essentially, trying to get people to come on board.
‘The Tanaiste, then Taoiseach at the time, the only intention by giving this document was fulfilling a commitment that had been made by the NAGP, and that was keeping them up to speed.
‘But also the intention was to get as many GPs as possible to sign up to what was a very good agreement.
‘The entire document was not [published]. It was not [in the public domain]. What I do need to stress is that the deal had been reached, the majority, if not all, of the sensitive information, the information that the IMO was then essentially been campaigning with their GPs on, had been agreed.
‘It had been signed off by cabinet. There seems to be a suggestion that this document was given for personal gain but also that there could be changes made, this did not come back to cabinet.’
Helen McEntee went on to say that she has never ‘leaked’ documents as she confirmed that Leo Varadkar will make a statement on the matter in the Dail on Tuesday.
The Justice Minister said although the NAGP was not involved in negotiating the deal, they had been involved in the process.
Similar to her party colleague Colm Brophy, Ms McEntee branded the deal a ‘very good deal’ as she insisted that the information was already in the public domain when Mr Varadkar shared the document with Dr O Tuathail.
She could not, however, answer why the document sent was marked ‘private and not for circulation’.
Minister McEntee said that the incident will not affect her trust in her party leader and that she does not believe that it will affect Leo Varadkar’s reputation within Fine Gael going forward.