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File image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. TOM HONAN

'The opposition cannot sit idly by': Sinn Féin tables motion of no confidence in Leo Varadkar

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said Sinn Féin is “only interested in political mudslinging”.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Nov 2020

SINN FÉIN HAS tabled a motion of no confidence in Leo Varadkar following controversy over the Tánaiste giving a copy of an agreement between the government and the Irish Medical Organisation to a rival GP group last year. 

The motion will be debated in the Dáil next Tuesday. 

In a statement this afternoon, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said this is “the right thing to do and it is the necessary thing to do”. 

Varadkar faced pressure following the news which broke in the Village Magazine last weekend.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin accused the Tánaiste of throwing Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, with whom he shared the document, “under the bus”. 

The issue of sharing the agreement was raised again by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty during Leaders’ Questions yesterday. 

Mary Lou McDonald said: “The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has decided to take no action. The Opposition cannot sit idly by, so we have acted.”

She said this is “more of the old Fine Gael behaviour where it is about who you know and insiders getting access to the corridors of power”. 

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said earlier: “We took the decision due to the seriousness of this situation and the fact that the Tánaiste has faced no sanction nor has he given a credible account for his actions in providing confidential information to a friend.” 

This motion will allow the Dáil to say to the people that no one is above being held to account and that there are consequences when you act as Leo Vardakar has done.  

Commenting on this motion, a spokesman for the Tánaiste said Varadkar “dealt with all the issues in the Dáil this week”.

“This motion clearly shows that Sinn Féin isn’t interested in the truth. They’re only interested in political mudslinging attacking the Irish government at a time of national crisis and diverting attention from the unanswered questions about their receipt of public money in the North.”

Several party officials stepped down from Sinn Féin over a failure to return 
£10,000 payments from an emergency Covid-19 fund. 

In the event of a motion of no confidence, members of government parties are expected to vote with the government and the whip will apply.  

Earlier this week, Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan outlined inconsistencies in Varadkar’s statement on the controversy, but said Varadkar’s resignation as Tánaiste and Business Minister would be “bad for the country”. 

Today, O’Callaghan indicated that he will vote in line with the government on the no-confidence motion. Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry said that “presumably the party will consider the matter next week”.  

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

The Sligo TD 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”.

Chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Richard Bruton said it is “incredible” that Sinn Féin would “waste time engaging in narrow tribal politics on a motion that seeks to bring down the government”. 

“An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar comprehensively answered all of the questions put to him in the debate on Tuesday and apologised for the manner in which he sent the document,” Bruton said in a statement. 

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