Daniel McConnell: Credibility knocked but Leo Varadkar now free to become Taoiseach again

Daniel McConnell: Credibility knocked but Leo Varadkar now free to become Taoiseach again

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar. File Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

News that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will not face any charges clears the way for him to become Taoiseach in December and removes a significant cloud of controversy which has lingered since the controversy broke in October 2019.

The saga, which was started in the wake of an article in the Village Magazine which alleged Mr Varadkar acted in a criminal fashion is now over, and the Tánaiste is a free and innocent man.

In a statement, An Garda Siochána confirmed: “Following a garda investigation, a comprehensive investigation file was submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed no prosecution against any individual in this investigation. An Garda Síochána has no further comment.” 

Such a decision will raise questions over the investigation, the length of time it took, and the decision to refer the matter to the DPP.

But in the political sphere, undoubtedly Mr Varadkar and his reduced gang of loyalist supporters will be relieved that he has no case to answer.

The truth is that the longer this dragged out, the more difficult and precarious his position was becoming. Had the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to charge and prosecute him, Mr Varadkar’s political career was over.

Had the controversy dragged into the autumn, it would have made the pending transition of power, an already tricky process, far more tense and delicate.

But such concerns are now in the past.

Privately, Mr Varadkar has made no bones of his annoyance at his own failings but was said to be very hurt by suggestions that he had broken the law.

He was also said to be angry that the Opposition sought to “get personal” on this issue, questioning his character.

Looking back on this saga, Mr Varadkar’s confirmation that he shared the then GP contract negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation with the head of the rival NAGP did him and his standing within his party and the government significant damage.

Mr Varadkar’s relationship with his “friend but not a good friend” Dr Maitiu O Tuathail has been the subject of much conjecture, rumour, and speculation, and the Opposition has not been shy in making the Tánaiste’s life difficult.

Dr Maitiu O Tuathail of the Irish Medical Organisation was a friend of Leo Varadkar. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Dr Maitiu O Tuathail of the Irish Medical Organisation was a friend of Leo Varadkar. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Politically, the impact of the controversy, especially when it was reported that he was subject to a criminal investigation, was significant on Mr Varadkar.

His credibility took a significant knock and his authority over his party was substantially weakened. The investigation was like an open sore which festered and caused increasing unease within Fine Gael.

For his part, while he accepted he was wrong to leak the document, Mr Varadkar always maintained that the allegations of criminality made against him were false. 

“I am pleased at the outcome of what was a very thorough investigation,” he said last night.

For his part, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had already committed his party’s support to Mr Varadkar even when the investigation was continuing.

The news that the DPP is not going to prosecute removes the most significant and potent risk to Mr Varadkar’s standing and the closer December comes, the stronger his position will be.

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