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Government wins confidence motion in Tánaiste Leo Varadkar following testy Dáil debate

The debate on the confidence vote concluded this evening.

Leo Varadkar during this evening's debate in the Dáil this evening.
Leo Varadkar during this evening's debate in the Dáil this evening.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

Updated Nov 10th 2020, 7:48 PM

A DÁIL CONFIDENCE motion in Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has been won by the government.

The final vote was 92 to 65 in favour of the government. 

Sinn Féin tabled the motion of no confidence in Varadkar last Friday after the revelation that he had sent a copy of an agreement between the government and the Irish Medical Organisation to a rival GP group while he was taoiseach last year.

Varadkar faced questions in the Dáil last Tuesday over the revelations, which were first published by Village Magazine.

Overriding Sinn Féin’s no confidence motion in Varadkar, the government tabled a confidence motion that was proposed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin this evening. 

The debate began at about 5.40pm and lasted for just under two hours.  

During the debate, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Varadkar “must be held accountable” for his actions while government colleagues mounted a robust defence of the Tánaiste.

Martin said that Varadkar had “acknowledged his error” and that “all details have been published lessons have been learned around”. 

Martin also said that the Tánaiste was part of a government of which “tackling the pandemic remains our first priority”. 

“I’m happy to propose a motion of confidence in the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who was part of a coalition government which is implementing an urgent and progressive programme to help and work all sections of our society,” Martin said. 

The Taoiseach also criticised Sinn Féin for what he said was engaging in “politics as usual.”

“Sinn Féin is entitled to practice the politics of always looking for an angle, and both participating in and attacking a government at the same time,” he said.

I see no purpose in using my time in this debate to address the ever-rising examples of Sinn Féin ignoring basic ethical standards. True republicanism is about working in the interests of all of the people. 

Criticising Varadkar’s actions, McDonald said the government was “playing by the rulebook of the old boys’ network”.

“The cozy club insider culture that dominates Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil too is why those parties failed workers and families again and again,” she said. 

Leo Varadkar while he was Taoiseach leaked confidential government information to his friend. He can offer no credible reason for his actions. His claim that he was acting in the interests of the taxpayer or that the information was already in the public domain are threadbare.

Sinn Féin’s Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that Varadkar was “caught red handed” and passed on a confidential document.

Both Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys also defended Varadkar and criticised Sinn Féin. 

Coveney said that “faceless online trolls” have suggested that Varadkar was engaged in “personal gain or to sabotage instead of landing widespread support for a deal done with GPs”.

“Last week was about accountability to this house, and rightly so. But what is Sinn Féin’s game here this evening?,” Coveney said.

Are they using this issue to try to sow division in a coalition during a global pandemic and as Brexit negotiations reach endgame, simply to harvest or nurture online hate and bile.

Humphreys said: 

You pontificate about a golden circle, when Sinn Féin is the richest party in this country. You even had Donald Trump himself at one of your gold plated dinners in America. You had the gall to accuse this government of burying records, but victims of the IRA across this country are still buried and their families are still waiting. 

Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and the Social Democrats’ Róisín Shortall both said that they would not be supporting Varadkar. 

“The Labour Party told the Tánaiste to come clean, to tell the truth, to dispense with the incredible yarn he had been peddling, to apologise and perhaps there may have been a way out for him. But the minister chose not to do that,” Ó Ríordáin said. 

The Dublin Bay North TD also criticised Sinn Féin, saying: 

Sinn Féin want to present themselves as the ethical left. They say they want to stand against insider politics and the old boys club. We in the Labour Party offer them some advice. It’s not good enough to describe a convicted tax cheat as a good Republican, because he’s a member of your old boys club.

Shortall outlined seven reasons why she would not be supporting Varadkar, the final of which she outlined: 

What added insult to injury for the public was that as leader of Fine Gael he required his Cabinet colleagues to demean themselves by parroting the cynically crafted spin lines, repeating his false narrative across the airwaves.

“The Tánaiste’s actions in respect of this sordid affair were unworthy of his office,” she said. 

Speaking about why he was voting in Varadkar’s favour despite earlier criticising him, Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said: “I stand by my comments of last week on RTÉ. Like de Valera’s relationship with the oath of allegiance, tonight’s vote is an empty formula but a necessary one at this time.”

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Closing the debate, Varadkar himself apologised over his leaking of the document but also went on the attack against Sinn Féin.

Varadkar said this was the first time that he had faced a motion of no-confidence and it had caused him to “reflect” on his actions.

He accused Sinn Fein of tabling the motion to “keep the story in the public eye for another week” and to “distract from other issues”. He claimed the “truth” was that for Sinn Fein politics was “just a game”.

With reporting from Sean Murray

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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