Ireland's deputy prime minister will face harsh questions in the country's parliament over revelations he leaked details of a pay agreement with doctors to a rival union.
Taoiseach (prime minister) Micheál Martin said it was “inappropriate” for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to disclose a draft agreement between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to its rival, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), in April last year when he was PM.
The furore over Varadkar's leak is the latest scandal to strain the four-month-old governing coalition in the Republic of Ireland between Martin's Fianna Fail (FF), Varadkar's Fine Gael (FG) and the Greens.
"The Taoiseach is of the view that the action was not best practice, as sending a document of this kind in such a manner was inappropriate," a senior FF source told the Irish Independent on Sunday.
The two leaders have reportedly agreed that Varadkar will answer questions in the Dail (lower house of parliament) next week.
In a statement, Varadkar admitted leaking the pay deal that had yet to be signed, but claimed a report of his behaviour in the Village Magazine was "grossly defamatory."
The Tánaiste would only concede that it was "not best practice" to pass on the details through an "informal communication channel" to his friend, NAGP president Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, in a bid to persuade his association to agree to the same terms.
Opposition Sinn Fein Dail member (TD) for Waterford David Cullinane accused Varadkar of "hiding behind lame excuses."
"People have to have faith that the Tánaiste can act in good faith when he's acting on behalf of the state, and this does strike to the very heart of his credibility," he said.
"The facts for me here are clear that Leo, as the leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach at the time, passed on a document to a friend about sensitive negotiations involving hundreds of millions of euro of taxpayers’ money," Cullinane added. "It was clearly a document that was marked confidential."
Sinn Fein, which favours reunification between the Republic and Northern Ireland, was excluded from the coalition government despite winning the most votes in February's general election and tying FF in the Dail with 37 TDs each.
And FF TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc MacSharry said Varadkar's statement "does not deal sufficiently with the matter."
"The Taoiseach should also ensure the Tánaiste makes himself available to answer questions in the Dail as a matter of urgency," MacSharry said. "A distraction of this nature cannot be allowed to fester given the enormity of the problems that we face as a country."
Varadkar tweeted at the time that the event "should not have happened."
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) August 21, 2020