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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C Minister for Education, Norma Foley.

Fianna Fáil minister says Varadkar's actions not 'appropriate' and calls for 'very frank' Dáil statement

Paschal Donohoe backed Leo Varadkar, even as pressure grows on the Tánaiste.

CABINET MINISTER NORMA Foley has said that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar needs to answer questions in the Dáil next week, but warned against ‘pre-judging’ his actions, as pressure grows following his acknowledgement that he had provided a government document to a medical organisation through informal channels. 

Appearing on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme, the Minister for Education and Fianna Fáil TD said she recognised Varadkar’s “willingness” to take questions. She also acknowledged that his actions were not “best practice and it wasn’t appropriate”. 

She said a “very frank” statement was needed. 

The Fine Gael leader is facing growing pressure following publication of an article by the Village yesterday. The story has prompted severe criticism by opposition parties, while yesterday evening coalition partners the Green Party said that Varadkar’s actions were “not appropriate”

Earlier, Varadkar said that the article – which details alleged communications between the then-Taoiseach and the National Association of General Practitioners in 2019 – is “both inaccurate and grossly defamatory”.

However, he also accepted that the provision of the pay agreement between the government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) by an informal communication channel to the president of the NAGP, a rival grouping, was not best practice. The statement said he “regrets” that he did not ensure it was provided in a more “appropriately formal manner”.

Taoiseach Michéal Martin has not yet commented publicly on the controversy. Today, Foley said that it was not the time to discuss whether Varadkar should face consequences for his actions. 

“To take it any further at this stage would mean we’re pre-empting and pre-judging what would happen next week,” she said. 

On the same programme, Minister for Finance and Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe gave his backing to his party leader. 

He acknowledged that what Varadkar did “is not common” and not “best practice”, but said that the tánaiste has “made clear his willingness to answer questions on the matter”.

Donohoe said that Varadkar had only shared the IMO GP contract after negotiations had concluded and after the details had been broadly circulated.

“The Taoiseach outlined his concern in relation to the way information had been shared,” Donohoe said. 

“Any questions that are posed by other party leaders will be answered,” Donohoe added. 

‘Lame excuses’

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, also on the same programme, accused Varadkar of “hiding behind lame excuses”. 

“On what planet can the Tánaiste say this was acceptable and appropriate behaviour?” he said. 

Cullinane also indicated that his party would be waiting to hear from Varadkar in the Dáil before calling for further consequences. 

“We have to wait and see what he does and see what he says,” Cullinane said.