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Taoiseach believes Varadkar acted inappropriately by sending IMO pay deal to rival, while Tánaiste calls Village Magazine article 'grossly defamatory'

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Micheál Martin believes Tánaiste Leo Varadkar acted inappropriately by sending a copy of an unpublished GP contract that the Government agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a rival representative group for doctors.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin spoke a number of times by telephone and agreed the Tánaiste would make a statement to the Dáil on his decision to send the IMO contract to the then National Association for General Practitioners (NAGP) president member Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

It came after Mr Varadkar issued a statement saying he regrets that he did not follow “best practice” in how he sent the confidential contract to Mr Ó Tuathail.

However, he insisted he did not act unlawfully or breach any codes of conduct for office holders.

Spokespersons in both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party refused to say if their leaders accepted Mr Varadkar’s statement on the contract.

However, a senior Fianna Fáil source said: “The Taoiseach is of the view that this action was not best practice and that sending a document of its kind in such a manner is inappropriate.”

The Green Party said “further scrutiny” of the timelines and the impact of the “disclosure” to the NAGP.

“The party is calling on the Tánaiste to give a full and detailed account to the Dáil on the issue and to allow sufficient time for the statement followed by questioning,” the party said.

“It is clear from what has been revealed that the passing on of sensitive information in this manner was not appropriate,” it added.

Varadkar says giving the IMO pay deal to rival representative group was 'not best practice' but called The Village Magazine's article 'inaccurate and grossly defamatory'.

The Tánaiste’s statement follow the publication of allegations in The Village Magazine that said Mr Varadkar sent the NAGP president member Maitiú Ó Tuathail a copy of a document marked ‘confidential/not for circulation’ outlining a proposed new GP contract the Government agreed with the IMO.

In the statement, Mr Varadkar said he believed that the deal was a positive one for GPs and that the Government wished to see implemented.

“He hoped to use Dr. Ó Tuathail’s influence to encourage all GPs to accept it including those represented by NAGP,” it says.

“The Agreement had been negotiated with (and was therefore already in the possession of) the IMO, and the publication or circulation of the Agreement to the members of the IMO was within the discretion of the IMO, which had already issued a press release setting out its essential content.

“The provision of the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail requires to be seen in the context of the potential unfairness of one representative body for General Practitioners (the IMO) having access to the Agreement at a time when the other representative body (the NAGP) did not,” it adds.

The statement says the Government “had publicly committed to keep the NAGP informed as to the progress of negotiations on the Agreement”.

“Therefore, the provision of a copy of the agreed and publicly announced Agreement by the Taoiseach to the President of the NAGP was honouring a political commitment previously made by the Government. It is important to emphasise that by that point, the Agreement had been agreed and its content had been publicly announced previously,” it adds.

“By definition, given that it had been extensively negotiated between Government and the IMO, many people outside Government in the IMO were already well aware of its content, and the essential details of the Agreement had been described in press releases which were reported upon in the national media.”

The Fine Gael press office statement says the provision of a copy the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail, had the “legitimate objective” of trying to ensure all GPs signed up the new deal.

“The Tánaiste accepts that the provision of the Agreement by an informal communication channel to the President of the NAGP was not best practice and he regrets that he did not ensure that it was provided in a more appropriately formal manner,” it says

“There was however, nothing in any way unlawful about the provision of the Agreement to the President of the NAGP,” it adds.

The statement also says the Village Magazine published an “article in its current edition which is both inaccurate and grossly defamatory”. The statement objects to suggestions made in the article.

Meanwhile, former IMO President Dr John Duddy said the Tánaiste's actions "completely undermines the concept of negotiating with licensed trade unions".

"Regardless of the legalities, the fact remains someone in power gave a confidential agreement to a 3rd party who could potentially benefit from knowledge of its contents," Dr Duddy wrote on Twitter.

"These actions make it more difficult for trade unions to negotiate in good faith with the state if the potential exists for details to be leaked to vested 3rd parties," he added.

Dr Duddy said trade unions should "unite to condemn" Mr Varadkar's action.

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