Taoiseach says he has confidence in Tánaiste ahead of Dáil address on document controversy

Taoiseach says he has confidence in Tánaiste ahead of Dáil address on document controversy

Micheál Martin Martin says he does not believe Mr Varadkar broke any laws when he passed a confidential document outlining a pay deal between the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Government to the rival National Association for GPs (NAGP). Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has made a strong show of support for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, saying he has confidence in him, despite acknowledging he should not have shared a confidential document the way he did.

Mr Martin further said he does not believe Mr Varadkar broke any laws when he passed a confidential document outlining a pay deal between the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Government to the rival National Association for GPs (NAGP).

Mr Varadkar will address the Dáil on the matter today, an appearance Mr Martin sad he would "not preempt".

However, the Taoiseach said the pay deal "should have been public earlier" and said his predecessor's motivations were right in passing on the document to the NAGP, which was headed by his friend Dr Maitiu O Tuathail.

Asked if he had confidence in his Tánaiste, Mr Martin was unequivocal, saying that while he believed the document should not have been sent as it was, no illegality had taken place.

I don't have an issue there in terms of how we're working together. 

"Since we formed this government, I think we've clear mechanisms in place to deal with issues that come before cabinet, and also any issues that may arise between the three parties in terms of the programme for government.

"This is not best practice and the Tánaiste himself has accepted that. And this was not the appropriate way to deal with a document of this kind, in terms of the manner in which it was sent to the president of the NAGP.

"My own view generally on an agreement of this kind is that, given the amount of public money involved, this should have been public knowledge much earlier."

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will address the Dáil on the matter today, an appearance Mr Martin sad he would "not preempt". Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will address the Dáil on the matter today, an appearance Mr Martin sad he would "not preempt". Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mr Martin said the Tánaiste had been acting out of a desire to get the €210m deal supported by as many GPs as possible.

I think that the objective was one of endeavouring to get GPs on board. I see no issue with that. 

"I think that was important because we did need to advance the situation in relation to that contract everyone had been calling for a new contract."

Mr Martin said that usually the line minister, in this case Simon Harris who was then Minister for Health, would have handled the situation. 

However, Mr Harris told RTE radio that he had no knowledge Mr Varadkar would be sending the document to the NAGP.

Mr Varadkar's Dáil appearance will come as the opposition ramps up pressure on him.

The Labour Party's education spokesperson Áodhán Ó Ríordain said his party wants to know "if this is something that Leo Varadkar has regularly done".

"Leo Varadkar entered himself into this process that was ongoing between the Department of Health, the HSE, and the IMO. He entered into this process in order to obtain documents for a friend of his, and that was not appropriate," he said.

"He handed the document - on which it says confidential and not for circulation - to a friend.

"So what's more important in today? Is it that you were a registered negotiating entity or is it more important that you have the phone number of Leo Varadkar?"

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