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Varadkar warns party members to be careful who they think their friends are, says Biden will be good for Ireland

The Tánaiste said tonight the controversy was ‘a mess of my making’.

A number of Fianna Fáil TDs have taken issue with the manner in which senior figures in the party came to the defense of the Tánaiste.
A number of Fianna Fáil TDs have taken issue with the manner in which senior figures in the party came to the defense of the Tánaiste.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has this evening thanked his parliamentary colleagues for defending him in the media and for supporting him during his speech last night.

Last night, Varadkar apologised in the Dáil for “errors of judgement” after he gave a copy of an agreement negotiated between the Government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a rival GP group last year.

The Tánaiste was grilled about what motivated him to send the document to Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail of the NAGP – someone Varadkar said is a friend but “not a close friend”.

He was also questioned about that friendship and the timeline of their contacts – whether he had been in touch with Ó Tuathail since the story broke in the Village magazine on Saturday, and if he had ever leaked a confidential report before. 

At the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, he said it was the first time in almost ten years he has ever had to do something like that in chamber, but said it was important for accountability.

In what is described as an off the cuff remark, Varadkar warned party members to be careful who you think your friends are, saying politics is getting nastier.

“It was a mess of my making and I shouldn’t have dragged you guys into it. Hopefully it’s behind us now,” he said.

Separately, Varadkar spoke about the US election, saying that Joe Biden will be positive for Ireland as someone who has a genuine personal attachment to country beyond “just a golf resort”.

He said Biden has shown an interest in Brexit and its impact on Ireland, particularly what it means for the Good Friday Agreement.

The Taoiseach said he had confidence in the Tánaiste earlier this week. Tonight, Micheál Martin faced criticism from party backbenchers about how he defended the Tánaiste during the controversy over a leaked document.

A number of Fianna Fáil TDs have taken issue with the manner in which senior figures in the party came to the defence of the Tánaiste.

Ahead of tonight’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, Sligo TD Marc MacSharry has said he is very unhappy with the way Martin and other Fianna Fáil ministers came out to bat for Varadkar.

He said he is “appalled” that there was little debate internally within the party about the approach, and highlighted that there are different standards depending on who the protagonists involved are, stating that government cannot preside over one rule for some, and no rules for others, pointing to contrasts in the handling of the controversies involving Fianna Fáil ministers Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary. 

In a scathing attack, MacSharry told the Taoiseach this evening that in defending Varadkar, Martin has dragged them all down by supporting him.

He said he was disgusted at how Micheál Martin was ruining the party, and blamed him for the party’s poor performance in the polls.

MacSharry said he was “beyond disgust and depression at issues of the last number of days”, telling the Taoiseach that there was “palpable anger throughout the country” from party members to see Martin out “as chief flag flyer for Leo”.

While Martin said earlier in the day that he is not responsible for what Varadkar did in the last Government, MacSharry said he appears to have no issue taking responsibility for road traffic offences dating back to 2016 and “throwing Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary under the bus”.

MacSharry rounded on the Taoiseach’s performance in Leaders’ Questions today, stating that when Martin “ran out of road” on defending Varadkar against Mary Lou McDonald he resorted to his “usual obsession of talking about ‘The Troubles’”. 

He said this obsession handed Sinn Féin hundreds of thousands of votes that they were never getting. MacSharry said whether anyone likes it or not, discussions around the Troubles are “nowadays for most people under 50 or the subject matter of interesting historical documentaries”. He said whether Fianna Fáil likes it or not many see Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams in the same light as Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins. 

MacSharry accused Martin of dragging the party down to 11% in the polls, stating “you need to accept you are part of the problem. Not the solution. At the moment you are the problem. I am disgusted with your conduct”.

Martin is understood to have retorted that MacSharry’s tone of criticism was very personal, in which the Sligo TD responded by stating that it was “not personal, but fact” and if he couldn’t take the criticism, he shouldn’t be leading the party.

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen told the Taoiseach this evening that Varadkar took the wrong route, but said the Tánaiste made no gain from the sharing of the agreement. He said it wasn’t a resigning issue.

Cowen told the Taoiseach that he “did not get due process” and was sacked.

It has emerged this evening, that the Rural Independents Group has formally requested the Dáil Committee on Procedure to investigate if the Tánaiste broke any codes of conduct for TDs or office holders.

A letter to the Ceann Comhairle signed by Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath states that the group is seeking for the Committee on Procedure to review this matter entirely and undertake an investigation. 

“We believe that the actions of the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar TD, when he was Taoiseach, may have breached both the ‘Code of Conduct for Members of Dáil Éireann’ and the ‘Code of Conduct for Office Holders. We think that the exposure of the Tánaiste’s actions has shattered public confidence and trust, therefore greatly impacting on Government’s integrity,” states the letter.

“This debacle must be fully investigated,” writes McGrath.

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During Leaders’ Questions today, Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall called on the Taoiseach to undertake an immediate review of the code of conduct for office holders.

In response the Taoiseach said there was an obligation on all members to adhere to the code of conduct.

She said Varadkar had “ludicrously” dressed the issue up as having a legitimate objective and “laughingly” claimed that he was honouring Government commitments.

“This insults people’s intelligence,” she said.

“I think most people saw this episode for what it was. It was patently untrue for the Tanaiste to claim that. He engaged in a deliberate distortion of the truth,” she siad. 

Shortall said the Tanaiste engaged in “grubby activity for grubby purposes” by leaking a Government document.

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