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Fresh questions raised over Leo Varadkar’s leak of GP contract deal

Then health minister Simon Harris was unable to obtain a copy as officials warned leaking would ‘represent a serious breach of trust’.

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Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Sinn Fein has raised fresh questions over the leaking of a confidential GP contract by Leo Varadkar while he was taoiseach.

Donegal TD Pearse Doherty said records released under the Freedom of Information act have shown that then-health minister Simon Harris was unable to obtain a copy of the contract himself.

The records also contained warnings from Department of Health officials that publication of the proposed contract for GPs in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) “would represent a serious breach of trust”.

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Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty says Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has fresh questions to answer over the IMO contract leak (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty says Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has fresh questions to answer over the IMO contract leak (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty says Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has fresh questions to answer over the IMO contract leak (Brian Lawless/PA)

In addition, there are no written records of a request from Mr Varadkar to the department asking for a copy of the contract, Mr Doherty said.

Mr Varadkar has previously admitted to giving a copy of the contract to his friend Dr Maitiu O Tuathail, who at the time was president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), a rival of the IMO, in April 2019.

Mr Doherty told the Dail: “It is a scandal that goes far deeper than what we once thought.

“They show in the documents that at the same time you leaked this document, that the line minister responsible for the negotiations, Simon Harris was unable to obtain a contract from his officials.

“This is despite Simon Harris telling the Dail in November that he never requested a copy of the contract.

“He must explain for his actions, and he must correct the record of the Dail.

“Within the documents I received there are repeated warnings from the Department officials reiterating the confidentiality of the document and that it was still subject to negotiations with the IMO.”

He added: “On the 25th of April, a Department official noted ‘unilateral publication of the agreement, in the absence of confirmation from the IMO that it is satisfied with the final text, would represent a serious breach of trust’.

“By that stage, you had already leaked the document to the president of the NAGP, your friend.”

My motivation was to demonstrate to the president of the NAGP that this was a deal that they shouldn't oppose, to mollify their oppositionLeo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar responded that he had already apologised for his actions in the Dail last November, and accused Sinn Fein of “trying to reheat an old political controversy”.

He said there were no written records related to his request for the document at the department because he had requested it verbally.

He added: “My motivation, as I explained back in November, was to demonstrate to the president of the NAGP that this was a deal that they shouldn’t oppose, to mollify their opposition.”

Mr Varadkar previously told the Dail that he had been provided with a copy of the draft contract agreement by Simon Harris on April 4 or 5 2019.

He then requested a second copy, which was provided by one of his advisers, on April 10.

Mr Harris then sought an updated copy of the final contract on April 15, ahead of a Dail debate.

He was provided with a copy on April 17.

Mr Doherty said the FOI records included explanations from officials at the Department of Health why Minister Harris had been refused a copy of the document prior to then.

He then told Mr Varadkar: “Your argument simply doesn’t hold up.

“The contract was confidential, negotiations were ongoing.

“But despite all of this, you leaked this document in full knowledge of the consequences.”

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