Confidence in Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann has confidence in the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar T.D.

The decision by Sinn Féin to table a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste was based on that party's hope that something would turn up that would help it use today for an aggressive political attack on the Government. It was a 100% cynical move and, unfortunately, it reflects the reality of its four months as the largest Opposition party. It has been left scrambling by the reality that nothing significant has changed since last week's two-hour session. Let no one be in any doubt the situation relating to how the nearly-completed contract for general practitioners was given to a doctors' organisation is a legitimate point of public concern. It occurred during the previous Government but it is a matter which this Government and Dáil have a right to ask questions about. As I have said repeatedly, it was inappropriate and it should not have happened. When the Tánaiste informed me of the issue he outlined the details of what happened and these details have remained consistent subsequently. He also accepted without any issue that political accountability required that he come before Dáil Éireann and answer detailed questions at length. In substance, no one has demonstrated any personal gain from how the document was distributed and public policy was not adversely impacted. The Tánaiste has acknowledged his error and all details have been published. Lessons have been learned all round and Ministers realise such situations should not occur during this Government.

In recent days, Sinn Féin representatives were busy telling anyone who would listen that today's debate would be preceded by some blockbuster revelations that would justify the tabling of the no confidence motion. This, of course, has not happened. In fact, there is mounting evidence that we should be very wary of placing weight on claims made in texts between third parties. The Dáil has exercised its political oversight of this case and there has been accountability. A number of Deputies have referred matters to regulatory and legal authorities, clearly more in hope than expectation that their legal assertions are backed up. That is their right and the independent structures involved will carry out their work. It is a tiresome part of debates such as this that attacks are thrown at other parties and Deputies as being somehow complicit or lacking independence. The fact is that Ireland has a multiparty system. Everybody who actually wants to achieve progress for the people has to be willing to work closely and constructively with others. I profoundly reject the idea of putting partisan manoeuvring into every issue. Sinn Féin is entitled to practise the politics of always looking for an angle and both participating in and attacking a government at the same time. I, and my party, simply do not agree. Quite frankly, I have no interest in playing the "politics as usual" to which Sinn Féin is committed. I see no purpose in using my time in this debate to address the ever-rising examples of Sinn Féin ignoring basic ethical standards. True republicanism is about working in the interests of all of the people and my absolute focus is showing the Irish people that their Government is working for them.

At the moment our country is, with others, going through a dramatic social, economic and public health shock, which is unprecedented in the modern world. I am happy to propose a motion of confidence in the Tánaiste who is part of a coalition Government that is implementing an urgent and progressive programme to help and work with all sections of our society. Tackling the pandemic remains ouur first priority and the House will note that this morning's report from the European Centre for Disease Control, ECDC, states that Ireland now has the third lowest incidence in the EU. We still have more progress to achieve if we are to limit the impact of the virus in the time before a vaccine is approved, manufactured and distributed but there is no doubt that the measures put in place by the Government are helping Ireland get through the pandemic's second wave.

Every Minister and every part of government have been working tirelessly to respond with action to address new issues as they have emerged. Within weeks of taking up office, we prepared and implemented a job stimulus programme to protect jobs and businesses, support our schools in reopening and respond to the urgent needs of many sectors. The budget we introduced last month goes further and puts in place a comprehensive range of actions to support the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality and culture and is, according to every independent review, highly progressive. People and communities whose needs are the greatest are receiving the biggest benefit of the budget. The left and the far left in this House refuse to acknowledge it but this is a simple fact and is backed up by all independent research. Even with the priority we must give to the pandemic, in only four months we have begun moving forward with a major programme of change and investment. Ministers are participating in a range of Cabinet committees that are delivering an unprecedented period of policy review and development.

In health, on top of resources for responding to Covid, next year will see an entirely new level of activity to deliver fast and sustained progress, including action on cancer, maternity and trauma care, a new public-only contract, 1,200 acute hospital beds, major advances in mental health services, access to diagnostics and access to new medicines. This is not small incremental change; it is substantive progress after only a few months. In education, the Minister and her officials have, together with the partners in education, succeeded in overcoming a series of major policy and logistical challenges and are now moving ahead to implement longer-term action, including a lower pupil-teacher ratio, a significant expansion of special education supports and a new push for inclusive schools. These and many other actions are at the heart of our work on education.

We, of course, continue to give a priority to helping to protect as many jobs as possible and secure a comprehensive and inclusive recovery. The Government has introduced a comprehensive range of measures to support businesses of all sizes and, in particular, the small and medium-sized businesses that are bearing the biggest impact. The Tánaiste has played a central role in delivering these initiatives and continues to proactively consult many stakeholders across business to help create and retain jobs. We have continued intensive work to secure and maintain high-valued inward investment. As part of this, I have held a range of meetings with key employers and potential new investors. The announcement we made last week with Pfizer of 300 new jobs confirmed that this Government is succeeding in showing that Ireland as a place to invest and to grow. The establishment of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science was a further example of this and a signal to the inward investment community that Ireland is serious about investment in fourth level and in research.

On housing, a new era of sustained support for social housing has begun. We have also begun action on the existential threat of climate change. Strong new legislation has been published and is going through the House and a wide series of initiatives on energy, biodiversity and sustainability are under way. At European level, we have continued our intense engagement with our partners concerning the critical Brexit negotiations and we played a constructive role in securing agreement on the breakthrough new EU funding mechanisms. On the future of this island, North-South interaction at ministerial level has been restored and is moving forward in a new spirit of cooperation. The new shared Ireland initiative is under way, built on the core principle of fulfilling the vision of the Good Friday Agreement and creating a new era of cooperation, understanding and contact between communities North and South. The €500 million fund created to support the initiative marks the largest sustained investment in this area and will benefit some of our most marginalised communities.

I am very pleased with the work the new Government has undertaken in only four months in office. The three parties that formed the Government have different views on many things but we have agreed to work together in the interests of the Irish people and this is what we are doing. At this critical moment in our country’s history we are focused on action, not politics. We are working with the Irish people to get through this pandemic, to build an inclusive recovery and to deliver sustained progress on critical social, economic and environmental issues and that is why I and my party will vote confidence in the Tánaiste and in this Government this evening.

I want to take this opportunity to speak to express confidence in the Tánaiste. Leo Varadkar has been a colleague of mine for many years and he is a person I have grown to know well and trust. We are here today because of a Sinn Féin attempt to continue to sow division within Government and capitalise on a mistake made by the Tánaiste. As became clear last week, Leo's motivation in bringing the National Association of General Practitioners, NAGP, into the fold on a new GP contract was well-meaning but it did take a shortcut. He should not have mailed the document to the NAGP president. He should instead have had the association briefed officially. The Tánaiste has apologised for this and said that it was wrong and not best practice. However, if one were to read the abuse that faceless online trolls and their backers have drummed up, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Tánaiste had acted for personal gain or to sabotage something instead of landing widespread support for a deal done with GPs that he cared about.

The Tánaiste has already been before this House to explain himself thoroughly and to take questions. It is obvious now that for some what is ongoing is not about establishing facts or truth but about sustaining a political smear campaign masquerading as whistle-blowing to inflict maximum political damage. Let us talk about whistle-blowers. In 2014, as Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s reputation stood in tatters and as he was labelled as “disgusting” by his superior, who in this House stood out from the crowd and said no, the actions of Maurice McCabe were not disgusting but distinguished?

The Charleton tribunal said that remark came from a brave politician, a member of Cabinet and a senior individual within the political system and it was a break for Maurice McCabe that someone of that stature was brave enough to come out and call it as it was. That is the Leo Varadkar I know.

The timeline of April 2019 shows the truth and context, for those who want to see it, on this issue. The contracts were negotiated and done. The detail was widely briefed to the media by the IMO, the HSE and the Government. The Cabinet was updated. Hundreds of GPs were at organised meetings around the country discussing the detail, with briefing documents from the IMO. Only then did the Tánaiste give the document to the NAGP in an effort to try to bring GPs together.

Last week was about accountability to the House, and rightly so. What is Sinn Féin's game here this evening? Is it using this issue to try to sow division in a coalition during a global pandemic and as Brexit negotiations reach endgame, or is Sinn Féin's strategy simply to harvest and nurture online hate and bile regardless of the truth and cost, the politics of division and resentment? I will let those listening to the benches opposite judge for themselves but I have no hesitation in voting confidence in Leo Varadkar.

I have no hesitation in standing before the House this evening to express my full confidence in the Tánaiste, Deputy Leo Varadkar. I do stand here, however, feeling a deep sense of dismay as 2020 has been one of the most difficult years for this country. It is a year that has seen almost 2,000 people lose their lives as a result of Covid and has seen families across the country suffer from unthinkable heartache and grief. Yet, with all the challenges this country faces there is one party in the Chamber that is more interested in cheap political stunts than the very people it claims to represent. Should we be in any way surprised at the actions of Sinn Féin? We are, after all, dealing with the party of multiple mysterious bank accounts, the party that denigrates victims, the party that operates under a toxic culture of secrecy, bullying and intimidation and, most of all, the party of rank hypocrisy. With Sinn Féin it is always a case of do as we say and not as we do. It pontificates about a golden circle while Sinn Féin is the richest party in this country. It even had Donald Trump himself at one of its gold plated dinners in the United States. It had the gall to accuse the Government of burying records when victims of the IRA across the country are still buried and their families are still waiting for the truth from Sinn Féin.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Talk to Breege Quinn, Austin Stack and the families of Columba McVeigh or Tom Oliver. They will tell you what Sinn Féin's truth is about.

Sinn Féin criticises the Government's response to Covid on a daily basis when in Northern Ireland where it is in power people are struggling with one of the highest rates of the virus in Europe. Its talks about honesty and integrity, when it had tens of thousands of pounds of Covid support money that was meant for small businesses lodged into Sinn Féin accounts. And then, when it was found out, it came up with a Father Ted excuse that the money was just resting in your account. It claims to be at 32-county party except, of course, when it comes to political donations.

Sinn Féin comes into the House and throws lots of mud about in the hope that some of it sticks. That is its modus operandi as a party. It has introduced a Trump-like nastiness to Irish political discourse and then, when somebody speaks out, its social media army mobilises. Whether it is a politician, a journalist or a member of the public they are all subjected to vile abuse. Thankfully, there is a silent majority who see through Sinn Féin and they will see it tonight for what it is, a stunt which is about political opportunism rather than the national interest.

There is one politician who knows the meaning of the national interest and that is Leo Varadkar. When our country faced some of its darkest hours this year, Leo Varadkar was there. He led from the start and he led from the front. When it came to forming a government, unlike Sinn Féin he did not shirk his responsibility. That is because Leo Varadkar puts the national interest before party interest, something Sinn Féin cannot even comprehend. Its actions tonight once again prove this to be the case.

Beidh mé ag caint i gcoinne an rúin seo. Níl muinín againn as Leo Varadkar. Bhris sé na rialacha agus is gá dó a bheith freagrach as sin. This Government has been in office for just four months and in that short period we have witnessed displays of incompetence and chaos of record proportions. This Government was born of necessity. The old guard came together to keep change out, to hold back the tides of progress and to hold onto business as usual.

When he was Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential draft contract to a third party, to his friend. The refusal of the current Taoiseach to hold the Tánaiste and leader of Fine Gael to account left a no confidence motion as the only sanction available to us as an Opposition. Predictably, the Government responds with accusations, name-calling and spin, and that is its choice. That is its business. No amount of insults, innuendo or mud slinging by Fine Gael can alter the facts, and the facts of what happened are not in dispute. Leo Varadkar, while he was Taoiseach, leaked confidential Government information to his friend. He can offer no credible reason for his actions. His claim that he was acting in the interests of the taxpayer, or that the information was already in the public domain, are threadbare. Those defences collapsed on the floor of the Dáil last week.

The truth is there is no acceptable reason for what happened. This was not incompetence. It was not a mistake. This was a conscious decision by Leo Varadkar to leak inside information to his friend, and now the current Taoiseach stands idly by and Micheál Martin's failure to act is a failure of leadership. The Government claims that expressing no confidence in the Tánaiste is disproportionate to the conduct of Leo Varadkar but here is the truth. The truth is that if a junior civil servant or any departmental official leaked a confidential document they would be sacked, end of story. When Leo Varadkar leaked this document he was the Taoiseach. He was the head of government and that position comes with the highest level of responsibility, with the greatest need for ethical and honest conduct and, therefore, it comes with a greater demand for accountability.

What angers ordinary people is that the Fine Gael leader's actions are par for the course, and part of the insider cosy club politics that has done so much damage to our country. This is a broken politics, one that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil want people to believe has been left behind, but the politics of the cosy club really never went away. There are favours for friends, connections to pals in the world of high finance and access to power through a simple text message, while Debenhams workers and survivors of mother and baby homes are frozen out, fighting to have their voices heard. This is a very Fine Gael thing.

The Government argues that Deputy Varadkar's behaviour was a technical or procedural error; "not best practice" they called it. They say it bears no relevance to the bread and butter issues facing ordinary people but how very wrong they are. The Fine Gael cosy club culture is very relevant to the bread and butter reality of people's lives because it is about access to power. It is about what decisions are made and in whose interest, whether in the interests of ordinary people or vested interests, Ministers' friends and personal contacts.

As we debate the motion this evening, workers and families are struggling. Many are coping with the loss of life and the loss of livelihoods as a result of a once in a century pandemic. They also face the uncertainty of Brexit and we are coming to the end of what has been an extraordinarily difficult year for our people. Our people are entitled to much better from the Government than those in power playing by the rulebook of the old boys' network.

The cosy club insider culture that dominates Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is why those parties fail workers and families again and again. It is the reason why governments come and governments go, but nothing really changes for ordinary people.

I could stand here and delve into Fine Gael’s past episodes with corruption and insider connections. I could list the scandals, the tribunals, the abuses of power and it would take me all night, and it would get us nowhere. This is not about the past. This is very much about how Government is run today. Here is what I know for sure. As long as housing policy in this State is designed for developers and landlords, we will never fix the housing crisis. As long as health policy is driven by profit and privatisation, we will never have a strong public health service. As long as economic decisions are made to favour the golden circle, we will never have a fair economy that delivers for workers and families. The truth is that for so long as this rotten insider culture is tolerated, nothing will ever change. Houses will remain unaffordable, rents will keep going up and up and a generation will have to settle for the box room in their parents’ house as a home for themselves and their own families. Our health system will continue to struggle with overcrowded hospitals, citizens on trolleys and children left years waiting, sometimes in agony, for treatment and for care.

That is the price of government for the privileged few at the expense of the many. It is a price that generations have paid and it has cost us dearly. It can no longer be tolerated. It is the politics where Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes moves seamlessly from Government to chief lobbyist for the banks and then sits across the table from his Fine Gael friends in government when denying mortgage holders breaks for their mortgage. It is the politics where Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy, having failed miserably to rein in the insurance industry and its crippling premiums, moves from the Department of Finance to the world of high finance. The people we represent demand change - it is as simple as that. They look for a future of fairness, of kindness, but above all, of equality. They look for the possibility of better politics, where we can finally begin to realise the Ireland of the Proclamation and the vision of our better angels, a real republic that prioritises ordinary citizens and upholds the principle of good, honest government. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael clubbed together to deny that change. People now see these parties, which desperately cling to the past, back doing what they do best: looking after the well-connected and the well-off, while ordinary people are left behind.

It is lamentable that the Green Party, in which so many placed hope for change, have remained so quiet in all of this. Their silence speaks volumes.

After four months in power, this coalition has been riven with scandal. Deputy Leo Varadkar’s actions have undermined politics, they have undermined the Government and they have undermined the State. Sinn Féin said the old ways would not be tolerated on our watch in opposition, and we will be held to that commitment. We are now calling time on the politics of the cosy club. Former Taoiseach and serving Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, has asked for a fool’s pardon. Deputy Varadkar is no fool. The people will not be fooled by the guff, bluster and bravado of bullish Government Members, whose sole concern is self-preservation.

This scandalous behaviour that we have discovered, by the way, cannot be solved by Ministers simply picking their friends more carefully. Leo Varadkar, when Taoiseach, leaked a confidential document to a friend. He was caught and now he must be held accountable.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

The Government is asking us to vote confidence in the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Government is asking us to accept his explanation for his behaviour in leaking a confidential document to a friend and head of a rival representative body, completely outside of normal procedure and appropriate practice, during a multi-million euro negotiation process.

The Labour Party told the Tánaiste to come clean, to tell the truth, to dispense with the incredible yarn he had been peddling and to apologise, and perhaps there may have been a way out for him. However, the Tánaiste chose not to do that. He persisted with the line that he was leaking the document for the good of the document, a statement that takes the entire country for fools. Then, his cheerleaders go on the public airwaves and repeat the same lines. One Minister even suggested that the word “confidential” was printed on the document for the benefit of Dr. Ó Tuathail. The question is not only should the Dáil have confidence in him, but should any trade union have confidence that they can negotiate with this Government in good faith, or should any Minister have confidence that they can share a confidential document with the Tánaiste in good faith. The fact is, in all honesty, they cannot.

We also have no confidence in the Minister because he has shown no interest in protecting the rights of workers throughout this pandemic. When sectoral pay agreements were struck down by the High Court, my colleague, Deputy Ged Nash, introduced emergency legislation to reinstate them, and the Tánaiste dismissed this move as “virtue signalling”. When the Labour Party introduced a statutory sick pay Bill, the Tánaiste and his Government colleagues kicked it down the road for six months. When ICTU walked out of the Low Pay Commission after it advocated a paltry 10 cent increase in the minimum wage, the Tánaiste accepted the increase without question. The same week, he humiliated a public official and NPHET on national television and dismissed their recommendation because they had not thought things through. The Debenhams workers and others have been screaming for the implementation of the Duffy Cahill report, to which he is clearly indifferent. We are quite sure the Bill we launched today on working from home and the right to switch off will be treated with similar disdain by the same Minister. So, we have no confidence in the Tánaiste. He is not a friend of the worker and now appears not to be a friend of transparent politics.

The Labour Party has spent generations championing ethics in public life. From freedom of information legislation and lobbying legislation to tackling corporate donations, Labour has worked tirelessly to clean up politics from the grubby dealings of others. Not one Labour politician has ever faced any accusation of improper behaviour at any tribunal of inquiry. Labour knows what it is like to have to run against Fianna Fáil money, to have to run against Fine Gael money and to have to run against Sinn Féin money. Sinn Féin now wants to present itself as the ethical left. It says it wants to stand against insider politics and the old boys' club. We in the Labour Party offer it some advice. It is not good enough to describe a convicted tax cheat as a good republican because he is a member of their old boys' club. It is not good enough to accept £4 million from England to fund political activity in Ireland and then to move it around so they do not have to pay tax on it. It is not good enough to take racist American money from bigoted Trump supporters like Congressman Pete King of New York, who was one of the architects of the Muslim ban, but who supports Sinn Féin - an insider, one of your old boys' club. It is not good enough to have the Northern Minister for Finance send documents of the renewable heat initiative to one of its own insiders and member of the old boys' club in Belfast before it got sign-off. Ethics in public life is important, not just when it is somebody else's old boys' club but when it is your own.

This debate suits both Sinn Féin and Fine Gael.

They want the public to think politics in Ireland is a choice between the Varadkar conservatives and populist nationalism. It is not. There are enough of us in this Chamber who want to focus on the dignity of the worker and the eradication of homelessness, poverty and Covid-19 and who value the liberation of education and the well-being of all our people. We will continue to work with others to bring honour and ethics to Irish politics. Despite often harsh words between us, we have confidence in many individuals and groupings in this Oireachtas. That confidence does not extend to the Tánaiste.

I am glad to address the House on this serious issue. Like other Members of this House, I first became aware of these revelations when the details were reported in Village magazine. I heard from the Tánaiste at the same time as the Taoiseach did, and nothing I have heard subsequently has changed what the Tánaiste said to me, in the first instance, in his response. The Green Party stated that it was important that these issues were addressed in the House, as they were in detail last week. We welcome the opportunity for that to occur again today. We stand for parliamentary accountability in our democracy.

We also welcomed, having listened to the Tánaiste set out his version of events, his admission that what had happened was not right and his apology for such an error of judgment. We accepted that apology. The disclosure of information in this case was not right and he acknowledged that. There is a reason we have the Cabinet rule book and codes for how we must do everything through official channels to protect the public interest and, in the end, to protect the political system from accusations of partisanship or patronage. It is important that we follow those rules, treat documents with the highest confidence and make that work.

I have confidence that this Government can and will engage in that other method, partnership. We need to work collectively and with every section of society and a variety of interests in order that we deliver the Government's goals of tackling the health and housing crises and preparing this country to face the climate challenge ahead of us. That partnership has to work. We referred to that partnership in our statement last week. It was not silence, as Deputy McDonald stated. It was us listening and trying to give our assessment in our response, which we did, that we need to learn lessons from such occasions, as the Tánaiste acknowledged. He wished, as he said, he had done it differently at that time. We in Government commit to doing things differently and in partnership with the people of this country, the various institutions and vested interests, not just for their vested interests but for the public interest. We do that by being open in how we share data but also by making sure we treat data in confidence and with competence and that those we work with do the same in every section of society. That is our responsibility. We are in a coalition; it is not a club.

Confidence in the Government and the Tánaiste extends to the confidence and ability to ask questions and say, as we have said, "That is not right". However, that does not mean we should step aside from the bigger goal of this coalition and any coalition Government of serving the Irish people by changing the health and housing systems and preparing us for the climate future as best we can.

I express my full confidence in the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar. I have served in government with the Tánaiste since 2014 and knew him for many years before that. The personal and political qualities I have known in him in that time have been apparent again in recent weeks - his openness, honesty and accountability; his genuine commitment to advancing the public interest; and his willingness to acknowledge a mistake. Leo Varadkar's politics are those of decency, progress and doing the right thing by our country. His track record is clear in the leadership he demonstrated in delivering the best outcomes for our country in the many challenges of Brexit; his empathy and decisiveness in leading our country through a demanding and dark phase of Covid-19; and his unstinting support for the management of the economy, public pay and public finances, which has enabled us to meet this moment of challenge from a position of strength.

Contrast those qualities and that record with the record of the Sinn Féin Party. Its attack today is the same as it ever was and ever will be. It is a single transferable critique of our political system, a claim that others act in the interests of elites and insiders. Sinn Féin would have us believe it occupies the high moral ground and is interested only in the public good. I suspect its Members know this is rhetoric. Deputy Ó Broin recently described this as the political tactic of left populism. Position oneself as the real representative of the real people and condemn the rest of the political system as acting in the interests of others. We can see the dark places that this kind of politics can lead to. It is not, I believe, the politics of the majority of this House or the majority of our country.

Sinn Féin does not appeal to the better angels of our nature. Instead, it seeks to arouse the darker spirits to make its case. It is a deeply cynical politics that Sinn Féin has practised for too long. It is for EU membership but against every treaty that has brought our country closer to Europe. It is for jobs and business but against every economic decision pursued by this State in our modern era. That is the politics of division. It is the defining feature of Sinn Féin's politics and it is encapsulated in the motion today.

While Sinn Féin positions itself as the only party on the side of ordinary people, it is more in bed with big money than any party in this Dáil. Sinn Féin is the richest party on the island of Ireland, as its finance director confirmed earlier this year, with many staff and an extensive property network across the island. This network comprises 50 properties, which does not compare with any other party. Equally, no other party funds itself like Sinn Féin. Was the banning of corporate donations by a previous Fine Gael-led Government, which has been maintained by recent Governments, the act of a political party that wants to protect an inner circle and keep an old boys' club going? That type of behaviour better matches the description of Sinn Féin. As its finance director told The Irish Times earlier in the year:

Way back, we brought the bulk of it [which is money] into here [which is the Republic]. It helped us build ... the party a lot. It was a lot of money.

Sinn Féin always wants to point the finger rather than point the way. It speaks - and Deputy McDonald spoke - of undermining the State. There is no party less qualified to warn this Government of undermining the State than Sinn Féin. It looks to provide heat, not light. It looks to provide sound and fury, signifying and advancing nothing but its own political interests. This is in contrast with the Tánaiste, which is why I have full confidence in him. He serves and looks to serve our country with distinction. He acts in the public good and looks to advance the public interest. That is his track record and that is why he deserves the support of this House.

Today's debate is about low standards, credibility and trust but, most of all, it is about how Government business is done by Fine Gael. Last week, Leo Varadkar admitted to leaking a highly confidential document. When his colleague, the then Minister for Health, was asked to leak the same document, he refused, yet the leader of Fine Gael passed the document, marked "Confidential" and "not for circulation", to a personal friend and political supporter. He gave it to an individual and organisation that stood to gain, organisationally and financially, from securing that privileged information.

Leo Varadkar's claim that he did this in the public interest is simply not credible. The Government was not talking to the NAGP, and that organisation had a history of seeking to undermine previous GP contracts. The simple fact is that the leader of Fine Gael broke the rules. He breached the confidentiality of Cabinet and sensitive Government contract negotiations, all to give a dig out to a friend. If anyone did this in any other job, they would be sacked. Just because he was the head of Government does not mean that lower standards should be applied. Of course, we know, however, that this is how Fine Gael does business. It looks after those on the inside while leaving the vast majority behind.

How many former Fine Gael Deputies and Ministers are now corporate lobbyists? Enda Kenny works for VentureWave Capital, Brian Hayes for the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland and Michael D'Arcy for the Irish Association of Investment Managers. I could name many more. Indeed, it seems that Fine Gael is fertile recruiting ground for lobbyists who trade in access and influence. All of this has a price. Ordinary people pay the consequence for such insider trading. That is why the private sector has a privileged position in housing policy, why the Government gives more money to big developers and institutional landlords than local authorities and approved housing bodies, why investment funds pay virtually no tax but charge sky-high rents, why banks are bailed out but struggling mortgage holders are left to fend for themselves and why, thanks to the current Minister for Housing and his predecessor, we have the worst social and affordable housing crisis in recent history.

Today, Deputies have a clear choice. They can vote confidence in Leo Varadkar and send out a clear signal that all of this is okay and that Fine Gael is still in charge and calling the shots. Alternatively, Deputies can say that enough is enough and that it is time to end low standards in high places, time to end insider dealing and time for a Government that looks out for everyone and not just its friends.

The situation we are dealing with here should never really have arisen. The Tánaiste, while Taoiseach, last year engaged in an action which was wrong. He was found out and had to own up. He should have admitted that it was wrong and apologised. That would probably have been the end of it. However, he never admitted it was wrong and instead concocted a false narrative, a cock and bull story which clearly misrepresented the truth on a number of counts. Arguably, that was the greater error because the truth matters.

The Tánaiste first tried to make out that the confidential document which he leaked was somehow not confidential, despite it being clearly marked "Confidential, not for circulation". This was a negotiation document that was still in process with the IMO. The document was not capable of being finalised at that point as there were a number of outstanding issues to be agreed between the parties to it. There was not sign-off by the IMO until 16 April and it took another month before the final document was published by the Department. The then Minister for Health clarified last week that this was actually the case.

The Tánaiste tried to make out that what he did was some kind of noble action, that he had a legitimate objective and that he was honouring the Government commitment. There was no basis whatsoever for this claim. Anyone who knew anything about medical politics at the time knew that the row between the NAGP and the IMO was vicious. The Tánaiste had been a member of the IMO and, anyway, he had lots of friends who were GPs from both organisations, as he has told us. We know the intention of the NAGP's inner sanctum was to scupper the IMO's win on the contract negotiations and to upstage the IMO on the eve of its annual general meeting by releasing details of the arrangement. The Minister for Foreign Affairs should check his dates on this because what he said earlier was simply not correct.

If there was any truth in what the Tánaiste claimed, surely he would have urged Dr. Ó Tuathail and the NAGP to support and promote the agreement. There is no evidence that he did this. In addition, if there was any hint of truth in this, he would, of course, have co-operated with the line Minister to that end but, no, he went behind the back of the then Minister for Health.

On 26 January 2017, the then Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Varadkar, was contacted by a former member of the Air Corps on the issue of premature deaths, which is serious and needs urgent examination. There had been 86 premature deaths recorded since the 1980s, including 32 personnel under the age of 50, with many in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Twenty members have died since that contact was made in 2017. The Tánaiste's response at the time was to refer to the Cabinet handbook. He stated that the handbook, "doesn't allow me to go behind the backs of other ministers or enter into confidence with someone else to exclude them." He also indicated that he had signed a contract to observe collective responsibility . It is not that the Tánaiste did not know the rules, it was that he decided not to abide by them in respect of the IMO document.

Not only was the Tánaiste aware that he should not have interfered with the work of the Minister for Health but he also knew that, according to the Cabinet handbook, he was bound by the officeholders' code of conduct which states that officeholders should respect confidences entrusted to them in the course of their official duties. The Tánaiste clearly breached this requirement. His Trumpian defence that he, as Taoiseach at the time, was the arbiter of what he was allowed to do is laughable.

What added insult to injury for the public was that, as leader of Fine Gael, the Tánaiste required his Cabinet colleagues to demean themselves by parroting cynically crafted spin lines and repeating his false narrative across the airwaves. His actions in respect of this sordid affair were unworthy of his office. He damaged the Government and he damaged trust in politics. For that reason, and for all of the reasons and facts I have set out, the Social Democrats cannot vote confidence in him.

This motion raises two important issues from my point of view. The first of these is the issue of confidentiality and accountability on the part of Government. This brings me to what I want to see more of in Irish public life, namely, more openness and transparency at government level. The public want and are entitled to more openness, accountability and transparency on the part of the Government. We inherited a Victorian approach to politics. I want to see a change that includes more open discussion of and debate on how the Government spends public money in advance of decisions we make. We hide behind commercial sensitivity and confidentiality clauses in contracts. As a former Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, I have seen many cases where those who spend public money have not been held publicly accountable.

I can give examples of many of the public private partnerships where contracts can run for up to 25 years. Confidentiality clauses in these contracts are preventing openness in discussion and transparency in accounting. In most cases, these conditions are not justified from the taxpayer's point of view. The same can be said of the national broadband plan.

We are all familiar with our annual budget day announcements when the only surprise is when there is something in the Minister’s statement that was not published in the morning newspapers. We are having a debate here on openness. We need more openness, not less. I want to see more transparency. The culture of confidentiality in public life is excessive in Ireland.

The second issue I see in this debate is political gamesmanship. We are the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic in which almost 2000 people have died. Many people are suffering, with hundreds of thousands of people on the pandemic unemployment payment and wage subsidy schemes. Businesses are struggling but the people of Ireland are strong. If the Opposition was sincere about accountability, we would have a debate on that issue. Instead, it chose the nuclear option of bringing down a Minister and, by extension, this Government, which would result in a general election in the middle of this unprecedented Covid-19 crisis. All it wants is disruption. Its attempt to turn Dáil Éireann into a reality television show, such as the “The Jerry Springer Show" or “The Jeremy Kyle Show”, will not succeed tonight.

I welcome the opportunity to express confidence in the Tánaiste and the Government. This motion has been manufactured by those in Sinn Féin who pretend to have morals and principles. It is from a party whose actions continue to belie its public statements in this House. Sinn Féin talks about credibility while, on the other hand, it protects and rewards its inner circle. It talks about a cosy boys’ club while it cosies up to tax cheats and subversives. Ask the family of Robert McCartney who protects that party's elites and untouchables? Ask former Senator Máiría Cahill or Paudie McGahon about the kangaroo courts, its lies and deceit? It is no wonder Sinn Féin wanted to abolish the Special Criminal Court.

Sinn Féin is the anti-partition party which uses partition to its distinct advantage in circumventing rules and ethics. It is a party that claims Covid-19 payments in the North and sits in the Oireachtas in the South. It has those who had €10,000 resting in their bank accounts for six months while tricking the Irish public into believing that they are on the average industrial wage. This comes from the richest party in our State.

To be a former president of Sinn Féin one must call a tax cheat “a good republican”. The current party president uses the words “a very nice man”. Three words sum up the corruption and lies of Sinn Féin - Research Services Ireland. This was a bogus company set up to siphon taxpayers’ money for the cosy boys in Sinn Féin in the North. Thirty-six MLAs claimed more than £700,000 through this company which was run by the Sinn Féin finance department, with mileage and expenses galore. The only problem was that after 11,500 miles were clocked and £5,000 pocketed, one of the cosy boys did not even drive. A central services company was used because other research facilities could not be used, as the work was deemed too sensitive. After all, in Sinn Féin the untouchables must be protected.

I am delighted to express confidence in the Tánaiste. I am genuinely worried about the direction of political discourse in our country. I am worried that we now live in a world and in a country where some strive to see those with political differences as enemies rather than decent people with opposing views. I am worried that there is a real effort under way to have us live in a country where one cannot make a mistake without the off-with-their-heads brigade seeking a political execution. This is not who we are or who we must become. We are better than that.

Sadly, the parties that apply harsh judgment to others often refuse to apply it to themselves. The Tánaiste made a mistake. He accounted to this House for it, apologised and explained his rationale. For some in this House, led by Sinn Féin, that will never be enough. They have decided to measure political effectiveness, not in terms of legislation passed, bipartisan work under way or policy proposals to tackle major societal issues, but rather in decibel levels, units of anger and soundbites of division. A good day at the office for Sinn Féin is one on which it has sown the seeds of mistrust and misinformation about a political opponent and amplified it online, often with the help of faceless trolls. For that party to succeed, it believes others must fail. This week we saw Sinn Féin engage in the grubby politics of "let them deny it". I have worked with many good, decent and sincere people from across the political spectrum in this House. This is a stunt. It is simply another attempt to divide.

Leo Varadkar is a committed, energetic, smart and sincere leader. I have seen his judgment at first hand during the Covid-19 pandemic and his leadership in trying to keep us all safe as we grappled with a deadly virus. We would not have a new general practice agreement were it not for his leadership. He set it is an absolute priority on becoming Taoiseach. He brought Departments together around the table, banged heads, set objectives, timelines and funding streams and he got it done.

When the Tánaiste made a mistake, he apologised. Have others in this House ever made a mistake? Perhaps they attended a public gathering in Northern Ireland in breach of public health guidelines. Maybe they staged what was effectively a political rally in a graveyard in the midst of severe restrictions when people could not go to the funerals of close relatives, despite the fact that the deceased was not even being buried in the cemetery in question. Perhaps someone was invited to a key briefing on Covid-19 with our top medical experts but was too busy, left early and then claimed not to have been fully briefed on the pandemic. Perhaps they came into this House and used parliamentary privilege to erroneously accuse people of financial wrongdoing and then, on being proven wrong, sadly forgot to apologise. Perhaps they jumped up and down in outrage in this Chamber and smeared the then Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, and when she was completely exonerated by Mr. Justice Charleton, they also forgot to apologise. Everybody makes mistakes and I am sure none of us wishes to be defined by them.

The smears and innuendo that are creeping into political life need to stop. There was an undertone in the last week. We and the Opposition all know it. Not one Member of this House called it out. It is wrong and it cannot go unchecked. It is time to focus on the issues. In the week that the people of the United States, thank God, rejected the politics of Trumpism, do not dare try to introduce it in this country.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle. In the course of a conversation with a constituent last week, I learned that it was 100 years ago, last Wednesday, since the Black and Tans had burned her grandfather’s creamery. He had to go on the run, leaving his family, with the price of £1,000 on his head. Afterwards, I received a message from her saying that her grandparents were committed to a republic, a better world, equality of access to education and employment and their democratic right to vote. She mentioned equality of access. For these just rights, she said, they risked their livelihoods and their lives. Are we, as Teachtaí Dála, staying true to this legacy? Spin will not paper over these cracks. Are we now going to deliver a vote of confidence in this Tánaiste in the light of the leaking of confidential information which has been well discussed? We know the Tánaiste believes that every Member of this House routinely leaks information and that a culture of spin and calculated leaks is completely acceptable.

We remember the promise of the so-called democratic revolution of former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, but our lot was a bank bailout and the continued prosperity of the well-heeled, the golden circle. Who benefits from this type of cronyism? It is banks, the insurance industry and Fine Gael’s friends. What fate is in store for those who are not well-connected? Weeks ago, we had the survivors of mother and baby homes being ignored and dismissed by this very Government, whereas those who know the Tánaiste personally get confidential documents posted to them without question. It shows the insidious nature of insider politics. This, as the phrase in Kerry goes, leads to “daoine atá fágtha in áit na leathphingine”, those who are neglected or left behind. That seems to be the fate of rural Ireland with this Tánaiste and his party. Can people in rural Ireland enter the golden circle, the prism of privilege, the fortress of the favoured? School secretaries, who have no pension or job security and are on a two-tier pay scale, certainly cannot enter. I know one school secretary who worked for 28 years under these conditions. These secretaries were promised help but were then told that to help would be to open the floodgates. The Debenhams workers I saw in Tralee at the weekend certainly cannot enter. They are maintaining their vigil through the November nights with their hopes of assistance from Fine Gael or its partners in Government fading fast. The small inshore fishermen of the south west certainly cannot enter as they see the bays of Kerry literally being cleaned out by the larger boats following the recent High Court case.

Unlike the vulture funds, there will be no rushed legislation for those who choose to maintain a family fishing tradition; certainly not for seasonal workers, tour guides, bar staff and those in music and the arts excluded from the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP; and, finally, certainly not for those who live off the main roads of rural Ireland who cannot access broadband after the populous areas were carved up by the large companies and the State was again left to pick up the tab. One school in Kerry that contacted the Department of Education and Skills to complain about substandard broadband was told to contact their local representatives.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Tralee when, among other events, county hall, the seat of local democracy, was burned down by occupying Black and Tans. The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil-controlled county council does not want to talk about that event or commemorate it in any way. Maybe they are afraid that the motives of those who struggled for equality 100 years ago and remembering men like Frank Hoffman, John Cantillon and Michael Maguire would lay bare the contrast between the promise of then and the reality of now. I oppose the motion.

We move now to Deputy Bríd Smith who is sharing with Deputies Paul Murphy and Barry.

We have no doubt where this debate is going. The conduct of it is quite shocking. Those on the other side of the House who believe they are debating a Sinn Féin motion, as they repeatedly said, are wrong. We are debating their motion and the outcome of it is clear. After tonight, normal people will look back and say, "He got away with it again". I refer to normal people like a young care worker in a small local hospital who was suspended for seven weeks for daring to put a post on Facebook criticising a management decision to spend multiples of her annual wage, which was less than €30,000 a year at the time, on a piece of art when there was a trolley crisis in her hospital. She did not break a confidentiality. She expressed a widely held view of wasted resources during a health crisis. I refer to normal people like 500 paramedics who joined a breakaway union called NASRA. It was a breakaway, rival union about which the Tánaiste, when he was then Taoiseach, said repeatedly to us in the previous Dáil that the Government could not and would not deal with because it was outside the ICTU camp. He clearly had two sets of morals for two different types of people, namely, his friends and the normal 500 paramedics who work day in, day out for this country.

What really amuses me is how Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are circling the wagons of Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael here tonight, not because they like the Tánaiste, or even most of Fine Gael, not because they believe him - I believe they do not believe him - and not because it is inappropriate and unbecoming of his conduct as Taoiseach to do what he did or because it is true that he was right but because it is true that he was wrong. They are doing it out of self-preservation. Deputy Eamon Ryan's statement stooped very low when he used the climate crisis as a reason for backing this confidence motion in Leo Varadkar. Normal people will be struck tonight by the way Leo Varadkar got away with it again. When they think of Leo Varadkar, they will think of the slogan, "Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All", attacks on NPHET, and this disgraceful excuse of a then Taoiseach lying to everybody and getting away with it again.

If the Tánaiste survives tonight's vote, it will be thanks in large measure to Fianna Fáil and Green Party Deputies whose votes will be noted with disapproval by some-----

A Deputy

The bully boys.

-----and with disgust by many others. He will also survive thanks to the support of the corporate media, which has refused to frame this scandal as a matter that might require resignation. They recognise the Tánaiste as a skilful and capable representative of the capitalist establishment and as a man who can play an important role for the system when he takes the reins again as Taoiseach and is charged with implementing austerity in a post Covid-19 era.

I have no confidence in Leo Varadkar on the leaks issue. He assisted a doctors' organisation, a breakaway within the health service, which opposed free GP care for children aged under six while locking out another breakaway group, more than 500 ambulance paramedics, who campaigned for trade union rights. I have no confidence in him when he wants to limit the increase in the minimum wage next year to less than 1%. Last but not least, I have no confidence in him when he blocked the Duffy Cahill report in the previous Dáil and has taken no action whatsoever to deliver a just settlement for the Debenhams workers in this one.

A Fianna Fáil Taoiseach proposing a motion of confidence in a Fine Gael Tánaiste is an appropriate end to Civil War politics. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are uniting to defend corrupt behaviour while the Green Party is asleep at the wheel. Tonight, Leo Varadkar will get away with it as a result. He will face no consequence as a result of breaking the code of conduct for Deputies, breaking the code of conduct for officeholders, and committing a crime under the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act. However, people have seen how the establishment operates with golfgate, where politicians, lobbyists and judges flouted the rules to rub shoulders with each other, with the revolving door from senior Fine Gael politician to banking lobbyist, and now with the Tánaiste pulling strings for his friends.

It is the Tánaiste who is guilty of divisive politics. It is the Tánaiste who is guilty in terms of his campaign based on fabricated statistics of "Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All". We need rid of this Government, which is millionaires serving the interests of billionaires. We need a Government based on left and socialist policies to serve the interests of ordinary people.

The Deputy has accused the Tánaiste of committing a crime. That is completely out of order. It is not acceptable in this forum in any circumstances and I think he should withdraw that statement. The commission of crimes is something that is adjudicated on by a court of law, not by any of us sitting here in Dáil Éireann.

If the Ceann Comhairle wishes, I will rephrase it to say that I think there is very clear evidence, but, of course, it is not for me to decide, that the then Taoiseach may well have breached section 7(2) of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act which says that someone cannot give information that they obtain-----

We hear what you are saying, Deputy. Thank you.

-----as a result of their high office to someone else who benefits from it.

We move on now to the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, who is sharing with Deputy Joe McHugh and the Minister of State, Deputy Martin Heydon.

The Tánaiste gave a full and frank account of his actions and motivations last week in this House and took considerable time answering Deputies' questions. Today is two hours of statements and counter statements, a rehash of last week's events when we are in the midst of the most serious health crisis to face our nation and staring down the barrel of a no-deal Brexit. We will spend valuable Dáil time today making speeches about a document the detail of which was in the public domain when the then Taoiseach passed it on. Medical journalists were writing detailed articles on the deal before this document was shared. This was not some State secret being passed to the enemy as some on the Opposition benches would spin it.

I remind the House that we are expecting a large budget deficit of €22 billion in 2020. Government debt is high in historical and international terms and is a risk to the public finances and the economy. There are hundreds of thousands of people unemployed and businesses worried if they will ever reopen yet we are here at considerable cost to the taxpayer debating a motion for no good reason other than political opportunism. I am not for one minute saying that any member of Government, or this House for that matter, should be unaccountable; they most certainly should be accountable.

The Tánaiste made himself available and accountable last week for detailed questioning by Deputies. He answered completely and honestly. He has admitted he should have done things differently and he apologised for it. Everyone in politics makes mistakes. It is human nature. Some mistakes are more serious than others. The Tánaiste's error is certainly not one that warrants resignation. It was a mistake of process rather than substance.

I very much appreciate that the Opposition will make hay while the sun shines and attempt to make out that every error is some national crisis. That is politics, but it is bad politics. We have steadied the ship during the Covid-19 pandemic and I am particularly conscious of the leading role Leo Varadkar took in that. He has my full confidence.

The Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, is a politician who gets things done. As Taoiseach he worked hard to get so many things done. As Taoiseach, he worked very closely with his Cabinet colleagues and he was always informed. He was solution focused and was always determined to find a solution, even in the most difficult of circumstances. He took his mandate as Taoiseach very seriously and at all times was conscious of the enormous responsibility placed on his very young shoulders.

The Tánaiste does not wear his heart on his sleeve but that does not diminish his passion to serve all the people or his ambition to get things done. The politics presented to us tonight is of the rawest and most fundamental form — the politics and power. The real priority political issues of the day are sidelined. These include Covid-19, from which people are still dying, and Brexit. The ambition tonight is to inflict maximum political damage. The Tánaiste knows only too well that he would have done things differently; he has acknowledged that. This nonsense tonight — the talk about insiders and cosy clubs — is nothing short of a mockery. Regarding the question of a deal to include all GPs in a contract — GPs who look after the old, young and sick — the Tánaiste wanted to get things done. That was his motivation, and Sinn Féin does not have a monopoly on helping people.

While representatives of the NAGP were outside the gates of Leinster House, Sinn Féin was with them, roaring and shouting at the Government to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, the politics we are witnessing here tonight will be the narrow, divisive and destructive politics that will continue in the period ahead. The roaring and shouting will continue, and it will be fractious. Sinn Féin will be 100% right 100% of the time and will continue to accuse the Government of being 100% wrong 100% of the time. Deputy McDonald, in her tweet just yesterday or the day before, was on about the old boy's network. The reason we are having this debate tonight is because of the members of the old boy's network around a monitor somewhere up in Belfast tonight. It has decided to use our valuable time in the interest of power, and it has sidelined the important issues of tonight. Deputy Doherty, who got elected two years ago this month, will continue with his shouting and roaring with nothing to show for it, but he can do all the shouting and roaring he wants because he will not be making the decisions; it will be the boys in the old boy's network around the monitor in Belfast.

I am very happy to vote to express confidence in our Tánaiste and the Government today. I will spend my limited time expanding on my confidence in Tánaiste, on which I look forward to voting shortly, because we all know the amendment to the motion tabled by Sinn Féin has nothing to do with him. It is all about Sinn Féin's focus on political game playing. In June 2020, the leader of Sinn Féin proclaimed, “[B]e very sure you will see in action the most coherent and effective opposition in the history of the State.” People would have been forgiven for believing Sinn Féin was moving away from the populist politics of the past, such as its trying to convince the public it was entitled to be in government after a general election even though it got less than one quarter of the overall vote. So convinced was Sinn Féin of its entitlement that it organised a series of public meetings all around the country to demand that it get into power. It displayed the same understanding of the electoral system as Donald Trump has done in recent days but, in fairness, at least he nearly did get half the vote in his election.

That Sinn Féin can stand here with a straight face today is interesting in the context of its recent decision to accept from the estate of Mr. William Hampton a donation of more than £4 million sterling, a far cry from the maximum allowable donation under Irish electoral law, which is €2,500. Today is obviously an attempt by Sinn Féin to change the narrative. Will Sinn Féin, given its recent windfall, be offering to reimburse the taxpayer for the €25,000 it has cost to bring us here for a vote today? Would any Sinn Féin Deputy be willing to stand up for more than an hour and answer questions, as Leo Varadkar did, on that donation, on the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Sinn Féin members over the acceptance of Covid-related state grants, or on why it was only when the media got wind of the story that grants had been paid into Sinn Féin accounts that any action was taken? I presume Sinn Féin's same standard of accountability is not required in this instance. Instead of offering effective, constructive opposition, it offers populism once again.

At a time of a Covid pandemic, a Brexit crunch point fast approaching and several key challenges facing our country, Sinn Féin is more concerned with political one-upmanship and point-scoring. That is not the politics I am interested in. It is not a form of politics that serves our country well. That is why I will happily vote to express confidence in our Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, and the Government as a whole today so we can get on with the very important work that lies ahead for our people.

The issues at stake are very clear. Deputy Varadkar, as Taoiseach in 2019, gave a confidential draft document, a contract worth €210 million that was still under discussion with the IMO, to his friend, the president of a rival organisation, on his request. It was done not through official channels but through private text messages before deleting all traces of the correspondence. A friend of the Taoiseach requested a confidential Government document by text message and Leo delivered. End of. If a civil servant did the same, it would constitute gross misconduct, trigger disciplinary action and be grounds for dismissal. What are the consequences for the Tánaiste? Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Fine Gael believe there should be no consequences, or no sanction. We disagree. The Tánaiste has crossed the line and we are expected to just look away. This is not good enough.

Truth be told, this is how Fine Gael does its business. It involves the politics of the insider, the favour for friends, and access to power for those in high places, but the politics of the insider comes at a price for those on the outside. In this regard, just consider insurance. People are still being ripped off owing to extortionate premium costs. Why? It is because the insurance industry sat down with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and asked him to ensure key sections of my legislation, passed by these Houses, would be blocked. The Minister did as he was asked. Tens of thousands of mortgage holders have seen their mortgages on their homes sold to vulture funds. The vultures asked Fine Gael to block legislation that I introduced that would not allow for the sale of those mortgages without consent. Fine Gael did as it was asked because that is how power works for it. One day it is tasked with holding vested interests to account and the next it becomes the chief lobbyist on the other side. In this regard, just look at the record. A former Fine Gael Minister of State, Mr. Michael D'Arcy, spent three years in the Department of Finance, or three years being lobbied by the fund industry, yet, three months after leaving office, he became the chief lobbyist. The banks are another example. Another former Fine Gael Minister of State, Mr. Brian Hayes, spent three years in the Department of Finance and he is now the chief lobbyist for the banking and vulture fund industry. The revolving door keeps spinning. It is a consistent pattern; it is the politics of Leo Varadkar. Those on the inside will always have his ear.

The Tánaiste's excuse for leaking the confidential documents simply does not hold up. He claims it was some part of a mastermind strategy to get the contract over the line, but strategy requires initiative. This was at his initiative. It was his friend who requested the document from the Minister for Health. That Minister refused to give it to him because it was confidential but Leo delivered for his friend. When he was asked to get it, he obliged. He did so in secret and without telling anyone, covering his tracks and deleting the correspondence. He claims leaking the document was part of a strategy to engage with the NAGP but we know there was no engagement with the NAGP on the part of the Government or the Department of Health. Indeed, the only engagement was when Deputy Varadkar stuck a confidential document in the post to give to his friend, the head of the organisation that was rival to the IMO. The Tánaiste says the agreement was in the public domain but it was not. Every single one of the 130 pages had stamped across it, “Confidential. Not for circulation.” We are aware there were at least 35 further changes.

The Tánaiste has been caught red-handed. He leaked confidential, commercially sensitive Government information to a friend. He and his Government colleagues believe he is above accountability but he is not, nor should he be. The question in this House is whether we are going to stand for this. Are we going to allow for this kind of cosy insiders' club to continue, or are we going to vote for accountability? We in Sinn Féin have no confidence in this Tánaiste.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Deputy Canney is next and is sharing time with Deputies Tóibín and Fitzpatrick.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to contribute on this debate. I am struck by the level of debate and what is being discussed. Galway East, which is a rural and urban constituency, faces many issues. It has been stated in this debate that we are wasting our time. Although we must have it, we will have lost a great deal of credibility as politicians if we do not return to the real job we must do. We have to bring the country out of the pandemic. We got the good news yesterday that there may be a vaccine, but we must save jobs and ensure that whatever we do in the House is for the people. We can have debates about issues such as this one from time to time, but it is time now for every politician who has been elected to the House to serve the people to focus on what we need to do.

I was elected and chose to enter into opposition. I said that I would be constructive in opposition. I am here to call the Government to account if I believe it is not doing something right, but I am also here to support the Government when I believe it needs help. I think it needs a bit of help to get it out of this situation this evening, so I will support it. However, we must do things right from now on and ensure that we focus on the issues that are causing suffering and leaving small business people not knowing what to do. We must also ensure that we deal with the school secretaries and community employment scheme supervisors. These are the real issues that the we need to deal with, and that I want to deal with, in this Dáil.

This matter is important because Ireland has been racked by insider circles for decades. Insider circles are not a victimless crime. They have a radical influence on the development of a society and everyone else's ability to live in that society. Either we call insider circles out or give licence to them. If we vote confidence in the Tánaiste, the Dáil will give licence to that type of behaviour. How will we be able to turn around to anyone else at any level of government or in the Civil Service if he or she does exactly the same thing in the future? The Fine Gael Ministers who are rallying around the Tánaiste know well that, if they did the same thing, they would be out the door without touching the ground. That is a fact.

I listened to Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, who has positioned himself recently as the conscience of Fianna Fáil - if that is not an oxymoron at this stage. The Deputy is basically like the grand old Duke of York, in that he has marched his troops to the top of the hill. Tonight's vote is his opportunity to put his money where his mouth is.

The Green Party is at a crossroads. Its Members can try to crowbar some level of ethics into this Government or it can get locked into the coalition's misgovernance for the next three years. Their actions tonight will define the Green Party for about a decade.

There has been much discussion today about the restrictions. Deputy Calleary and Phil Hogan resigned from their political jobs because they were seen to break the Covid restrictions that were in place at the time. Indeed, there is much discussion about the question of Mr. Justice Séamus Woulfe resigning from the Supreme Court. Did the Tánaiste break Covid restrictions in May by having friends over to the house he was staying in on the Farmleigh House estate for drinks?

What the Tánaiste did in handing over confidential documents to a GP friend was wrong. That the then Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, was not aware of that sharing of information was also wrong. It displayed a lack of trust in the then Minister. The bottom line is that the then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, displayed a complete lack of judgment and undermined his colleagues in government and in his party. If such a situation involving one of his colleagues in government were to arise, I doubt that the Tánaiste would take the same approach. The record speaks for itself in this regard, with the Tánaiste having thrown colleagues under the bus in the past in similar situations.

I reiterate that Leo Varadkar has done wrong. He needs to face the consequences of his actions. In my opinion, his party needs to reprimand him. It is Fine Gael's responsibility to deal with this matter. The current Government, led by Deputy Micheál Martin, was not a party to the current Tánaiste's action and should not be drawn into this mess. Fine Gael needs to stand up and demonstrate transparency in its action to deal with this issue. It should be dealt with internally by Fine Gael.

We are in the convention centre at an additional cost of more than €25,000 of taxpayers' money to have this debate. It is a waste of taxpayers' money. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and Brexit will arrive in less than two months, yet here we are debating in the convention centre a motion about the actions the Tánaiste took while he was Taoiseach in the previous Government. Surely we have more important issues to debate.

I will support the motion of confidence in the Tánaiste. This is not because I believe that he did nothing wrong. In fact, what he did was wrong and he should face the consequences for doing it, but action should be taken by his party, Fine Gael. The Government has far more important issues to deal with than this. Covid-19 and Brexit need our full attention and we need a strong Government to deal with them. In my opinion, the Government, led by Deputy Micheál Martin, is a strong one and needs to be given the opportunity to govern. What we do not need is for matters like this to arise and deflect from the real issues of the day.

I will support the motion of confidence in the Tánaiste for the reasons I have outlined, but I expect his party to take some form of disciplinary action so that this kind of behaviour does not happen again. We cannot have one rule for Leo Varadkar and a different rule for everyone else.

We move to Deputy Bruton, who is sharing time with Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

I am happy to rise to vote confidence in the Tánaiste. At a time when the nation is holding its breath, many people are striving to demonstrate solidarity with those who are suffering considerably as a result of the Covid crisis, people's mental health is on the line, isolation is affecting people and businesses are struggling just to survive, Sinn Féin comes up with this attempt to blow up an error, one for which the Tánaiste has been fully accountable in the House, into a nuclear incident and create a DEFCON 1 environment, which Sinn Féin believes it can thrive in with its hollow rhetoric pounded out in the Chamber once again and its troops coming in one after another to read scripts and draw parallels to events that occurred long ago to try to muster a sense of division within our community.

What most angers people who follow sport is seeing someone go into the penalty area, dive and, after writhing and screaming on the ground, look for the red card and a penalty. That is deep cynicism; it is not the beautiful game of football that engenders the commitment and courage that we all admire. We face a similar situation here. This motion is motivated by cynicism and is a return to the worst form of tribal politics where we seek to portray our opponents in the blackest colours we can dream up. One after another, people have come into the Chamber with their theatrical descriptions of insiders and hollow terms like "capitalists" and "Black and Tans". These are the sorts of image that people are trying to conjure in a debate like this one.

We are seeing tribal politics across the globe. We need to pull up so that we can understand where this will bring us. We all look with disdain at the fake news and vicious characterisation of opponents in other countries and at the pandering to prejudice that has divided many communities. Ireland is fortunate that we have not had those divisions. We need to find a politics that is more honest with the people and faces up squarely to the sorts of challenge that people are trying to contend with in their daily lives. That is the work of a parliament. Sadly, we seem to think that politics should be about this theatrical approach. We are sent here to try to resolve differences and conflicts, not to create division.

Leo Varadkar is a politician who has done that throughout his career. He sought to progress change in a community where he understood that change is disruptive and can hurt people. He has sought to bring people with us.

People are looking to politics now for competence and compassion. That is what Leo Varadkar has shown, especially during this difficult Covid-19 crisis, but his political opponents want to drag him down. That is where this motion has come from. It is trying to prolong the sense of division and damage. It is directly out of the stable of fake news and the echo chamber of social media that they seek to drive those messages through.

Politics can be and will be better than that. We will win this motion of confidence and allow this Government, which has a unique balance, to bring us to a much better Ireland.

I am here to state confidence in the Tánaiste and express confidence in the Government and all of the Ministers working hard to recover our country and society during this dreadful pandemic. It is preposterous that this Parliament is spending its time today on this political stunt by Sinn Féin instead of on the major issues of the day. The Tánaiste made himself immediately available to this House. He answered every question put to him and was happy to do so, as was appropriate. Having spent time on that, causing this House to repeat the debate in this way is only play-acting. It is not serious or genuine. If it was, Sinn Féin would have put this motion down immediately. As the Taoiseach said, it is only an opportunity to get another run of publicity for the weekend.

People in here are not surprised by that, no matter the jeers and sneers pushed out for everyone around. We all see the failure to respect basic facts and the complete devotion to populist politics, which have been so destructive throughout the world. We have all seen the utter lack of restraint on a serious issue as recently as today. Those in Sinn Féin are not serious liberal democratic parliamentarians. They do not make up the responsible Opposition unlike others who have been before them and others who are here today. Those in Sinn Féin are in politics for the imagery, not the tough decision-making of senior political office and the years and yards of detail that go before it. The image-focused superficial approach to policy is exposed week after week. The Sinn Féin health spokesperson promises and extra 100 intensive care unit beds but when asked cannot tell where they should go. He says only that he will write to the HSE to tell those responsible to hurry on. The justice spokesperson used the charge last week to try to break the link between the Government pandemic plan and the Garda capacity to enforce it for its duration. The Sinn Féin party leader, after crying foul that she was not included in information on the pandemic, could not find her way to stay for the duration of a briefing provided by senior medical officials. All of this is because Sinn Féin is not concerned by detail but only by theatre. We all saw this Sinn Féin theatre in Milltown Cemetery after the funeral of Bobby Storey, which was taking place some 12 km away on the other side of town. It was not so much a funeral at that point as an opportunity for pageantry and for the big men in this House to stand up front with the big men who went before them.

We all saw the lack of concern for detail when it emerged that three Sinn Féin representatives had €10,000 resting in their accounts from the Covid support payments for over six months. They were instantly sacked when the BBC uncovered it, but what happened before that? In all seriousness, how did they not notice it? Is there so much money in Sinn Féin accounts that €10,000 here or there did not register for three separate people? Was it only three? Did others get it? It is shady.

Sinn Féin Deputies have plenty to say about everyone else. They are more than happy to create links and conspiracies that do not exist but when confronted in their own party about serious criminal acts, there is no one with anything to say on anything. Think back to all those people who saw nothing in or near a packed pub in Belfast the night Robert McCartney was brutally murdered. Think about all the smears and lies to discredit Máiría Cahill, who had the temerity and extraordinary bravery to speak out against one of Sinn Féin's elites, one of the party's untouchables. It was claimed she was mentally unstable and implied that she was promiscuous. Hate, bile and untruths were spread, all because she stood up and gave an account of her abusive experience and Sinn Féin's failure to respond to it. Sinn Féin is a party rife with the culture of cover-up but what it is covering up has had much graver consequences for the lives of people on this island.

Let us switch out the names and imagine Leo Varadkar or any other party leader in this House being happy to stand over what Sinn Féin does. It is inconceivable. Do Sinn Féin Deputies actually believe that Leo Varadkar should resign for this matter? It warrants questions in the Dáil and he has been accountable. If so, then why would Michelle O'Neill not resign or, for that matter, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy Pearse Doherty and the others who travelled, attended and made no semblance of abiding by the rules? They did so to such an extent that there has been a police investigation into it ever since. Those in Sinn Féin are the masters of throwing stones and rockets around them but they never turn the light on themselves - we know that. The silent, polite, non-abusive, good people of Ireland who remain horrified by the actions of those in Sinn Féin know it too.

I will begin my brief contribution by saying I have no intention of personalising this issue. I have no particular axe to grind with the Tánaiste, even though we have fundamentally disagreed on several important matters. Nevertheless, I am convinced that there are critical issues at stake. It is worth recalling that this fiasco is merely the latest instance in a series of events that have brought the operation of the Dáil and our national Parliament into disrepute. Last year, we had "swing-gate" and "vote-gate". This year, it is leak-gate and the year is not over.

I acknowledge that the Tánaiste displayed willingness to come before the House last week. However, such actions on his part cannot and should not act as some kind of parliamentary absolution. The Tánaiste was the senior political officeholder in the land when he deliberately leaked the draft contract. He is thereby held to a higher standard, yet in the past week we have seen no meaningful action in terms of parliamentary or party political sanction. The Taoiseach and his Cabinet colleagues have backed him to the hilt but not one of them has been able to identify what sanction he should rightly face. A two-hour session facing questions in the Dáil cannot be the limit of his responsibility or accountability in this serious matter. If there was even the slightest hint of a sanction being applied before this debate, I would have a different view.

I am concerned about the lack of consistency with regard to sanctions. We have seen several Oireachtas Members already sanctioned this year and the year has not yet ended. The general public are asking politicians like me why there is no consistency in sanctions and a lack of consistency in this case. The lack of sanction in this case forced the hand of the Opposition. In that respect, the fault lies with the Tánaiste and the Government alone. On account of this fact and this stark reality, I will be voting no confidence in the Tánaiste.

I am to happy stand here this evening but I and the people at home are aghast. In south Tipperary, 976 children are waiting for emergency speech and language treatment. In north Tipperary and east Limerick, the number is 1,079. All the people on the Covid payments will be asked to pay tax on the payments. The hospitals and health services are so bad. We have so many concerns about the failure of the HSE to deal with the pandemic, testing and contact tracing. When the Tánaiste was Minister for Health he chose the site for the national children's hospital. It is now a black hole in history.

I think of the men of 100 years ago. I think of young Michael Hogan, who lost his life with others on Bloody Sunday in Croke Park. I think of Seán Ó Treasaigh and Liam Ó Loingsigh and people like that and then I see the standards here now and how they have failed and slipped. I saw what happened to Phil Hogan in the early 1980s when, by accident, he leaked a page of the budget with nothing written across the top of it about it being private or confidential, and I see the standards now. I see what happened to the former Ministers, Deputies Calleary and Cowen. They had to be held accountable. I lay the blame with the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, for being so feeble, inept and weak in dealing with this. Standards have dropped so much.

I think of what young people, including the class of last year who are now first-year students, have gone through. I think of all the people out there, including the pensioners who could not get a penny in support during the pandemic. Many of them are in business. I think of the many areas of neglect and abuse, the 300,000 people who are waiting for cancer treatment, CervicalCheck, BreastCheck and everything else that is backed up. I think of the issues of mental health. When I see all that, I believe what is going on here tonight is a shame.

The people are disappointed and hurt with this duplication this evening. I think of all the things that are wrong. People will be unable to go to the North to get cataracts removed from their eyes. People in pain are not being seen by the HSE and they will be unable to travel to Belfast after 1 January next.

What is going on here is very wrong. Sinn Féin knows very well that Fianna Fáil is going to support Fine Gael tonight. They are joined at the hip and they are the one party now. They only have to change the name. When it came down to it, Sinn Féin voted to reduce our speaking time here. That is why I have only a minute this evening. They would all want to cop on because the people of Ireland will not stand for this for much longer.

By passing on a document marked "confidential" to his friend, Maitiú Ó Tuathail, in the context of negotiations on a GP contract, the Tánaiste undermined that system of negotiation. It is worth noting, however, that the document concerned was partly, if not largely, in the public arena. The IMO had issued a five-page summary document which outlined the important financial and other components several days before the Tánaiste passed it on to Maitiú Ó Tuathail. Nonetheless, this was wrong. The document should at the very least have been passed on through formal channels. The Tánaiste came before the Dáil last week, accepted his errors of judgment and apologised. He made a serious mistake but has apologised publicly more than once. In my opinion, intent matters as much as, if not more than, process. While the process was wrong, I accept the Tánaiste's explanation that his intent was good in that it was to secure universal acceptance of a GP contract across the GP community.

Yesterday, an article was published purporting to show that the Tánaiste had deliberately attempted to mislead the Dáil as to the extent of his friendship with Maitiú Ó Tuathail. I have looked at that evidence, which consists largely of WhatsApp messages from Maitiú Ó Tuathail. Running through the messages is a pervasive sense of entitlement: "We are the boys who run the show, or who should run the show." Underpinning these flights of fancy was the claim of easy access to the Tánaiste and senior Ministers. However, Dr. Ó Tuathail has in media reports accepted the Tánaiste's version of events, namely, that they had three meetings, so I see no evidence of a smoking gun.

I have not deviated from the subject in hand to make political points. There are many to make, but I have not done so. For me, this is not about political point-scoring; it is about the matter in hand. As already stated, intent matters as much as, if not more than, process. In these circumstances, I believe that the former outweighs the latter and I will vote confidence in the Tánaiste.

I would have supported the motion of no confidence if it had been put forward today. This means that I will definitely vote against the Government's motion of confidence. How can one have confidence in somebody who leaks official documents, thereby undermining best practice in standards in public office? The predictable row at 2 p.m. over the Order of Business and the move to the convention centre should also have been avoided. As I said in the Dáil Chamber, there was no reason the Government could not have put forward its motion to be taken tomorrow, when we are due to sit here. That would have allowed us to avoid the cost of moving here today.

I read the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's circular entitled "Policy on the Use of Private Email and Other Private Messaging Services", which was sent around by HR in April 2019. The circular related to the use of services other than official Oireachtas-designated modes of communication. It states that it relates to civil servants, but surely the point here is that a Tánaiste and Minister's ability to carry out his official Government work to the highest standard must also mean that he is at the very least held to the same standards as Government and departmental officials. The circular even allows for exemptions to the rule but states that information relating to Government business must be forwarded to official work accounts prior to being deleted. Point 12 states: "Failure to adhere to the requirements set out in this Circular may result in disciplinary action under the Civil Service Disciplinary Code." Why do Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party think that the Tánaiste is above the standards we set for our civil servants? We are public servants and we should be held accountable for our actions. It appears to me that the Tánaiste actively deleted his account rather than forward the messages to the official account. As far as I can see, from looking at WhatsApp, one has to actively delete an account on that messaging service. It cannot be done by accident and does not happen automatically either.

The Tánaiste could simply apologise and step down, as a previous Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, did. There is no excuse for Fianna Fáil and Green Party Deputies to say they have confidence in the Tánaiste. He undermined best practice in the context of standards in public office - this much he has admitted - and should now face the consequences of his actions. If the Tánaiste thinks that "Welfare cheats cheat us all", what does he think about politicians who behave as if they are above the standards set for us and for those in the Civil Service? Who is cheated then? The electorate is definitely cheated, as are those of us elected representatives who try to earn the public's trust in politics.

I wish to start by expressing my absolute confidence in the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar. Sinn Féin is here tonight yet again preaching, once more claiming to apply standards to everyone else in this House and to hold others to account, yet when its members are asked to account for their own actions, they fall silent. My colleagues have outlined many instances of hypocrisy but I will focus on one. Sinn Féin Deputies have talked about the challenging year people have faced due to Covid-19. In the midst of this pandemic, however, we saw Sinn Féin pack the streets and a cemetery for a funeral that was not even a funeral but was, in fact, a political rally organised by Sinn Féin in west Belfast. When asked to account for its actions in its undermining of public health, we faced silence. Sinn Féin has needlessly subjected the Dáil to this circus a week after the Tánaiste answered every question put to him and made himself accountable to this House, unlike those on the Opposition benches.

I have worked with the Tánaiste for eight years. I have seen how he works with other people and with organisations, political parties and colleagues. I have seen how he has worked in difficult situations with challenging problems as he tries to ensure that he listens to every single position put forward and that the best outcome is reached for everybody concerned. One does not have to work with him closely to see this; one need only look at the work he has done on Brexit. He is an honourable person. He cares about his work. People say he is ambitious. To be an ambitious public representative is to ensure the best possible outcome in everything one does for the people whom one represents.

As Taoiseach, one of Deputy Varadkar's priorities - and he made no secret of this - was to ensure that a deal was reached for a new GP contract. He is a former Minister for Health and someone who has trained as a GP and who saw the benefits of the contract, not just for patients but also for GPs and the wider public. This was his sole motive in sharing this document with the NAGP. He has apologised for how this was done but has also answered every question put to him in the House. That is why this motion is cynical, uncalled for and a waste of precious time when we could be dealing with issues such as Covid-19, Brexit or the multiple items of legislation and issues that people have elected us to deal with. This is nothing more than a political stunt. I fully support the Government's motion of confidence in An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar.

I thank the Taoiseach, the leader of the Green Party, my party colleagues, colleagues in Fianna Fáil and Independent Deputies for their words of support.

First of all, I wish to restate my apology to the House. I am sorry for my actions that gave rise to tonight's motion and I accept sole responsibility for them. While my motivations were sound, the manner in which I conducted myself was not. I do regret this and I have learned from it. This is the first time I have faced a motion of no confidence or a motion of confidence in my career. It forces me to reflect on the decisions I have made and the things I could have done differently and would do differently in future.

We all know why Sinn Féin put forward a motion of no confidence. Simply, it keeps the story in the public eye for another week. It distracts from other issues Sinn Féin would rather not talk about. Those in Sinn Féin will defend the indefensible when it involves them but they will not forgive an error of judgment when it involves anyone else.

The truth is that for Sinn Féin politics is a just game. Every flash of outrage, passionate speech and tear choked back is a tactical move. Their spokespeople are articulate and confident but totally insincere. When we make politics a game we devalue public life and let down the people we are meant to serve. We are all guilty of it on occasion but I believe many of those opposite are guilty of it tonight.

I wish to say a few things for the record. The document was the terms of an agreement between Government and a representative body. It was not a contract or was it a collective agreement in the normal sense. Perhaps, that does not matter but it is important to state. Multiple changes were made between the time of announcement and publication but these were not significant. They were generally technical in nature and did not require Cabinet approval. My decision to share the document with the then president of the NAGP had no impact on them. Last Thursday, there was mention of a second document in the Dáil. We have established that this was a six-page summary attached to it. I want to clarify there was no other occasion on which I shared a document with Dr. Ó Tuathail.

As I said last week, I spoke to the former president of the NAGP. On the weekend the story broke, we did so on three occasions. The first was a call from me to him on the Friday night when headlines appeared online. The second was a call from me to him to try to ascertain the date on which I posted the document for my statement. The third was contact from him about a statement the former officers of the NAGP were planning to issue. I said I did not want to direct or advise him but made some factual observations. I want to confirm that we have not been in contact in the nine days since.

I also state categorically that the error in providing the document to Dr. Ó Tuathail, notwithstanding my good reasons, was my own. He is blameless in this regard. He is responsible only of overstating the nature of his relationship with me and the level of his influence, and for sending some messages that were offensive and inappropriate. Having said that, there are few in this House or across the land who would not be embarrassed about the content of messages they have sent to friends or co-workers believing them to be private or confidential.

Dr. Ó Tuathail is a good person, a good doctor and an effective advocate for general practice and for people and patients, especially during the pandemic. I hope that can continue. He is someone who is genuinely committed to providing basic healthcare to those who need it most in his charity work, namely, homeless people, members of the Travelling community, the Roma community and migrants. I know that will continue. Because some people believed he was close to me, they treated him as a pawn and then made him collateral damage. This was raw politics at its most cruel.

As Deputies will know by now, there is more to this story than the sharing of a confidential document. I wish to speak about that for a moment. Our democracy is strong but we are not immune from the corrosive forces being experienced in other established democracies. I refer to fake news, conspiracy theories, the far right, the far left, unregulated fringe publications and unverified social media grievances, score-settling and smears masquerading as journalism, activism or some sort of anti-corruption crusade. I ask Deputies to reflect on their engagement with these forces. By giving them one's name and by repeating their claims, one gives them a legitimacy which diminishes this House.

I wish to put on the record that many of the claims made about me were trumped-up or simply made-up. Yesterday’s article was just one example of this. It alleged ten encounters, many of which simply did not and could not have happened, particularly as I was in Brussels on two occasions, Barcelona on one, out of Dublin on another or demonstrably doing Government business. It claimed four meetings with the Ministers, Deputies Donohoe and Harris, which also never happened. All could have been easily verified and checked if the truth mattered. Truth did not matter, however, and was not the objective.

Last week, I was asked to give a full and detailed account of my actions to the Dáil and to set out the timelines. I have done so. As I said previously, my guiding principle today is the same as it was when I entered political life, that is, to serve my country to the best of my ability, to make a difference while I have an opportunity, to deal with the issues which affect the very future of our nation, like Covid-19 and Brexit, and to build a better society for us all post pandemic.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 92; Níl, 65; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Denise Mitchell and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.