Yesterday afternoon the Taoiseach told the Dáil that he accepted Deputy Leo Varadkar's version of events regarding his leaking of a confidential document to his friend when he was Taoiseach. Yesterday evening Deputy Leo Varadkar, now Tánaiste and leader of Fine Gael, came to the Dáil to give his explanation of why he leaked this confidential and sensitive document to a personal friend and political supporter in April 2019. His defence fell apart.
We learned that the scenario that played out is more serious than any of us could have imagined. Deputy Varadkar's core alibi, that he was operating a strategy to get the National Association of General Practitioners, NAGP, on board in the public interest, was blown out of the water. The claims the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, made on radio, that the Tánaiste's leak was part of an ongoing process of engagement with that organisation, are simply not true. The Minister for Justice misled the public because there was no such process of engagement between the NAGP and the Department of Health. There was direct engagement when Deputy Leo Varadkar's friend, the president of the NAGP, requested and was given a confidential document. Similarly, the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, claimed on RTÉ news that the Tánaiste's actions were not so serious after all because no amendments had been made to the leaked confidential document. This is also absolutely untrue. The truth is that the document leaked by Deputy Varadkar was not the final document and amendments were made by the time the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, voted on the contract on 19 May 2019. As such, the Tánaiste's claim that he was acting in the public interest has been exposed as absolute spin. This was a dig-out for a friend and a political ally whose organisation was in free fall and who needed the information contained in the contract to try to fight for his organisation's survival.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the Tánaiste's leaking of this document was a one-off event and that it was not part of a pattern of behaviour. He said the Tánaiste had assured him that something like this had never happened before and that he accepted that assurance. However, on the floor of the Dáil yesterday evening, the Tánaiste admitted very clearly that he has broken Cabinet confidentiality in the past. The Taoiseach clearly was not aware of that. He is aware of it now. I want to know if he has asked the Tánaiste about this. Can he establish what information the Tánaiste has leaked before?
We also discovered on the floor of the Dáil that the then Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, had also been approached by the Tánaiste's friend looking for the same document. Was the Taoiseach aware of this fact or did the Tánaiste fail to give him the full facts? Will the Taoiseach tell us what on earth is going on here? It seems that members of Fine Gael in the Government are providing the public with wrong information and perhaps providing the Taoiseach with no information. The truth is that this is a very Fine Gael thing - government by who one knows. Thousands of struggling families are wondering if the reason they did not get an extension to their mortgage break is because another Fine Gael friend and former Minister of State, Brian Hayes, now represents the banks. I have no doubt that people in businesses being ripped off on insurance costs will scratch their heads and wonder when they see another former Fine Gael Minister of State and friend, Michael D'Arcy, the Minister of State who was supposed to take on the insurance industry, jump ship and become a lobbyist for big finance. This is the politics of the cosy club, of favours for friends. I want to know what the Taoiseach is going to do about it, because the story is not over.
The Taoiseach promised yesterday that all documents relating to this matter would be released. That needs to happen immediately. We need the full paper trail. Will the Taoiseach speak to the Attorney General to establish, for the avoidance of doubt, that the then Taoiseach did not in fact break the law?