Magazine editor says 'more information' to come on Varadkar story

Magazine editor says 'more information' to come on Varadkar story

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/

The editor of the magazine which published an article alleging that the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar broke the law in 2019 has said that he “absolutely 100%” stands by the story.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Michael Smith, the editor of Village Magazine in which the article appeared, claimed that it has "more information on it still to come”.

The latest edition of Village, which was published on Saturday, contained a lead story alleging that, in leaking a copy of an agreed contract between the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Government to the head of the IMO’s main rival organisation in 2019, the then-Taoiseach Mr Varadkar had broken the law, specifically the Official Secrets Act and the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act.

Mr Varadkar released a lengthy statement on Saturday afternoon rebutting the article, insisting that the piece was “inaccurate and grossly defamatory”. He said he had sought legal advice as to the article’s content.

While acknowledging that he had given the draft contract to Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, the then-president of the now-defunct National Association of General Practitioners, on a date between April 11 and April 16, 2019, Mr Varadkar insisted that no sensitive information was contained within the contract as it was already in the public domain.

Late on Sunday, Dr Ó Tuathail released a statement suggesting that his receiving the contract from Mr Varadkar was “a continuation of the decision by the Government to consult with the NAGP and its GP members and keep them informed throughout”.

He said that it “was wrong” that one group of GPs had access to the contract’s details on chronic disease management and another group did not.

Mr Varadkar said on Saturday that while what he had done was not best practice and that he regretted that it had not been carried out in a more appropriately formal manner, nevertheless the contract had been delivered to Dr Ó Tuathail “entirely in the public interest” with a view to “advance Government policy”.

He said that an agreement which is “extensively set out in press releases” is “not capable of falling within the definition” of ‘secret or confidential’, as contained in the Official Secrets Act.

The IMO issued a press release on the agreement on April 6, a day after negotiations concluded. However, the deal itself was not ratified until late May, while TDs in the Dáil had complained about being unaware as to its fine detail on April 16.

The NAGP was wound up after going into voluntary liquidation in May 2019 following the delivery of a report by Chay Bowes to the association’s directors and council members regarding its financial governance.

The entire council of the organisation resigned en masse on April 28, 2019, including Dr Ó Tuathail, citing “serious issues of internal governance” which had been brought to its attention.

Mr Varadkar is expected to make a statement to the Dáil tomorrow, and to take questions on the matter from TDs.

Both Mr Smith and Mr Bowes, a former member of the NAGP and the whistleblower for the Village Magazine story, said that Mr Varadkar’s statement had not changed their position.

Mr Varadkar’s statement on Saturday came after all the larger Opposition parties in the Dáil, and some Fianna Fáil TDs, had called for him to clarify the allegations stemming from the Village article.

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