Wednesday 25 April 2018

Leo Varadkar forced to close Fine Gael WhatsApp group following leaks to media

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Burke
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Leo Varadkar, a leading contender in the Fine Gael leadership race, is to close the party's WhatsApp group following leaks to the media.

The Dublin West TD, who set up the group during the government formation talks, announced the decision to ministers, TDs and Senators on Sunday night.

Fine Gael TDs will move on to a new group on the Confide messaging app at the suggestion of Chief Whip Regina Doherty.

The Confide app means messages will be sent via end-to-end encryption, will be automatically deleted once read and cannot be screen shotted - meaning leaking will become far more difficult.

Mr Varadkar said he is to set up a new, more confidential social media group so that messages "cannot be leaked to our dear friends in the media."

The move was taken after a message by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan about Health Minister Simon Harris was leaked to the media.

The message suggested that Mr Harris wants to leave the department and is colluding with Frances Fitzgerald over the leadership.

A number of senior ministers have not been members of the Varadkar WhatsApp group for some time, including his leadership rival Simon Coveney and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is a member though.

In a message posted tonight, Mr Varadkar said the group is being closed due to leaks. But he said a new form of messaging service will be set up which will be more secure.

A raft of TDs and senators quit the group after the leaks, including: Simon Harris, Alan Farrell, Maria Bailey, Josepha Madigan and senator Gabrielle McFadden.

The fiasco surrounding the issue has infuriated TDs and officials.

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