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Leo Varadkar says he 'isn't distracted' from his job and rejects suggestion he should step aside

The Tánaiste is under pressure as a result of the garda investigation into his leaking of a document.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Image: Sam Boal

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said he isn’t being distracted by the garda inquiry into his leaking of a GP contract and that he won’t be stepping down temporarily. 

It was confirmed over the weekend that gardaí are now treating their inquiry as a criminal investigation

It follows the revelation that Varadkar had sent a copy of an agreement between the government and the IMO to a rival GP group while he was taoiseach in 2019. 

Varadkar had sent the contract to GP Maitiú Ó Tuathail of the NAGP who he described as a friend but “not a close friend”

In November, the Tánaiste survived a confidence motion in the Dáil over the matter but the development that gardaí are treating their inquires as a criminal investigation has led to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald calling for him to resign.

McDonald has said she is seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin over Varadkar’s position in government. 

A government spokesperson has said Martin received the letter from McDonald, but has “no intention” of responding, stating that the letter is a political tactic which “lacked sincerity”. 

Government sources have added that if she has concerns, she can raised them in the Dáil.

McDonald told reporters that the Taoiseach’s response was “arrogant and high-handed”. She has written to the Taoiseach on twelve occassions this year on a range of issues, such as Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol, stating that he has only responded to about 50% of her correspondence. 

“I don’t write letters because I’m stuck for things to do, I’m an incredibly busy leader, I’m a very busy woman… clearly, Micheál Martin doesn’t do really accountability,” she said.

She said Martin seems to think it is “quite alright to leak confidential, commercially sensitive documents – no bother there, but there is a problem in responding to very important issues when raised by the Leader of the Opposition”.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, Varadkar said that he hasn’t yet spoken to gardaí over the matter if he is to make a statement it will be “much the same as the one that I made in the Dáil last November”. 

“As of today, no public authority and no public body has been in touch with me to tell me what I’m accused of, what crime or law I may have broken, or what evidence they have to support that. I’m basing pretty much everything on what I read in media reports,” he said. 

What I do know is that a complaint was made to gardaí four or five months ago. They’re investigating it, I’d expect no less, they’ve taken some statements, they haven’t been in contact with me yet. I have offered to meet them, I’ve offered to be interviewed, to make a statement, sworn under caution, whatever is necessary. 

Varadkar also said that he “didn’t do anything illegal or corrupt” and that  he “conferred no advantage on anyone”.

The Tánaiste rejected suggestions that he could step down temporarily from his position pending the outcome of the investigation. 

“I have to focus on the job that I’m doing and this isn’t distracting me from my job anyway,” Varadkar said.

I’m in the middle of a three-day trade virtual trade mission that I’m doing with Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. Notwithstanding stories in the newspapers at the weekend, I haven’t cancelled, rescheduled or deferred any of the duties that I’m pursuing for these three days. 

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Varadkar also attacked McDonald’s actions in calling for him to resign, saying that it “says a lot about her priorities”. 

“I think Mary Lou McDonald’s letter to the Taoiseach says a lot about her priorities. She wants to meet him not about the vaccine program, not about the Northern Ireland protocol or the difficulties people are facing as a consequence of Brexit,” he said. 

Varadkar also accused McDonald of “double standards”, saying that she didn’t call for Gerry Adams’ to step aside when he was arrested in 2014 in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville

Adams was subsequently released without charge

“Nobody in Sinn Féin called for him to step aside, they still won’t even say that’s a crime. If you ask them whether the murder of that woman was a crime, you’ll get some cock and bull response about how they wished history was different.,” Varadkar said.

With reporting by Christina Finn

 

 

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Rónán Duffy

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