Green party leader Eamon Ryan says Leo Varadkar can become Taoiseach again in December
Green party leader Eamon Ryan says Leo Varadkar can become Taoiseach again in December, despite a possible criminal charge hanging over the Tánaiste.
“My expectation is, or I would imagine, that the issue would be resolved before December,” Mr Ryan told Independent.ie.
His declaration represents solid political support for the embattled Fine Gael leader.
His view also reflects a belief within Leo Varadkar’s camp that the DPP will make a decision on the matter within weeks.
Recent statistics from the office of the DPP indicate that more than half of all files are processed within two weeks.
In recent days detectives investigating Mr Varadkar over the leaking of a confidential government document to his friend Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail have sent a file the DPP who will decide whether any person should face criminal charges.
Mr Ryan revealed he had spoken to the Tánaiste yesterday but declined to say what Mr Varadkar had said to him in a private conversation, and whether he had asked for the Green Party leader’s political support.
“I just have to be very careful. I don't want to comment on the DPP and their consideration of the file,” he said.
“I think that would be inappropriate and I think we've we've benefited tremendously from an independent legal and justice system in this country.
“So I can't comment on the specific matter, including on how long it might take the DPP.
‘But my expectation is, or I would imagine with the DPP, that the issue would be resolved before December. So I don't expect it to be an issue then.”
If the matter is resolved, one way or the other, Mr Ryan suggested that Leo Varadkar would take over as Taoiseach from Micheál Martin, as provided for in the Programme for Government.
The Green Party leader would not address potential or hypothetical outcomes, such as a charge leading to conviction and a fine, and whether this would alter the political calculus.
“I will await the DPP’s work, and their comments or their approach,” he said, confirming he had been speaking to the Tánaiste yesterday, Saturday.
“We are in regular communication and I don't think this issue will interfere with, or undermine, the way Government has to work at the moment.
“We have a well functioning government. We need to deliver for people, and there are so many different and challenging things in front of us.
“That’s my focus, and let the DPP do her work and we await the outcome.”
Asked about a scenario in which a criminal charge were to issue against the Tánaiste, and whether that would that necessarily hold up the issue of a rotating Taoiseach, Mr Ryan replied: “Honest to God, I prefer not to speculate about the outcome of the DPP’s consideration.
“But we’re collectively awaiting that, and in the meantime, I don't think it gets in the way of us working effectively as a Government — and shouldn’t.”
His attitude is that consideration of the file is in a separate sphere to politics, with must proceed on its own course, he confirmed.
That meant that the Programme for Government arrangement for a rotating Taoiseach remained in place, with its December 2022 provision that Leo Varadkar will become Taoiseach once again.
“Yeah, I don't want to pre-empt, or in any way put pressure one way or the other on the DPP. But yes, that would be my view,” he said.
Speaking in Millstreet, Co Cork, this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin refused to be drawn on whether he feared the planned rotation of the role of Taoiseach could be affected by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) consideration of a Garda file on an alleged leaking of a confidential file by Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.
Mr Martin declined to answer questions about the planned rotation of the role of Taoiseach in December or the Garda file sent to the DPP.
"I have been consistent on this from the outset - due process is important for every individual in the country irrespective of whether you are a politician or not," the Taoiseach said.
"Due process has to be followed here. The presumption of innocence in respect of any complaints that are made to the gardaí, (when they are) pursued and sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
"As far as I am concerned it is with the DPP now and it is inappropriate for me to comment on that given the independence of the DPP."
Mr Martin bluntly refused to discuss any concerns he had over the handover of the role of Taoiseach next Christmas.
"I have made my point - as far as I am concerned - this is a very fundamental value within our society in terms of due process and the presumption of innocence in relation to matters of this kind.
"No matter who the person is that is something I would be consistent on."
Meanwhile a statistical analysis supports the view that the DPP could decide the matter quite quickly. But if a charge were to be brought, then it would be weeks further before the sensational scenario of a sitting Tánaiste making an appearance before the District Court.
A serving Minister of Government has not done so in a criminal case since the infamous Arms Trial, more than 50 years ago.
A Fine Gael source pointed out that the annual report of the DPP’s office shows that 56pc of files submitted by the Gardaí were processed to a decision within two weeks.
Another 16pc were decided upon within four weeks, and a further 16pc with three months, for a total of 88pc completed within that accumulated timeframe.
If Mr Varadkar’s case were to fall into that timeframe, it would be concluded at DPP level in the summer. Even if a charge were to issue — when Mr Varadkar would have to decide how to plead — it would likely have entered the District Court lists by early September.
Defendants also have an automatic right of appeal from the District Court, meaning that there is a slight chance and an outside possibility, depending on initial outcomes, that the political controversy could continue into the New Year.
Today Fine Gael sources were drawing attention to speedy and efficient processing of most files that are sent to the DPP.
But there are major implications with a file concerning the Deputy Head of Government, meaning it is likely to be given careful consideration, which could in turn prolong the process in Leo Varadkar’s case.