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The former Taoiseach (Irish leader), who is currently Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) as part of a three-way coalition deal which saw Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin take the top job, has been forced to apologise in the wake of the controversy. He told Ireland’s Dail (upper legislature): “I am sorry for the controversy and the annoyance that my actions may have caused.”
However, many remain angry at the situation, not least Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein, who said: “Leo Varadkar’s core alibi that he was operating a strategy to get the national association of general practitioners on board in the public interest were blown out of the water.
“The truth is the document leaked by Mr Varadkar was not the final document and amendments were made by the time IMO voted on the contract on May 19 2019, so the Tanaiste’s claim that he was acting in the public’s interest has been exposed as absolute spin.
“This was a dig-out for a friend and a political ally whose organisation was in freefall and who needed the information contained in that contract to try and fight for his organisation’s survival.”
Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall added: “We have a senior member of Government exposed for engaging in what can only be described as a grubby activity for grubby purposes by leaking a confidential document to a rival union while the Government was engaged in negotiations, and those negotiations were still in process with a licensed union.”
Mr Martin himself described the Tanaiste’s actions at the time as “not best practice, inappropriate and the wrong way to deal with that issue and the wrong thing to do”.
Micheal Martin said he accepted the Tanaiste’s actions were an error of judgment and that Leo Varadkar had apologised for that.
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“The fact that he has acknowledged it was an error of judgment and he has apologised is important and to me.
“I think he dealt with the issue at some length yesterday and I think that’s important and it’s something that I accept in relation to his acknowledgement of his error of judgment and his apology for that.
He added: “This is not some sort of private commercial project that would benefit someone materially or in a money way, that is clearly not the case here and I think that should be acknowledged.”
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Speaking to Express.co.uk yesterday, Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, told Express.co.uk: “There is no doubt that Leo Varadkar has been personally damaged by this story.
“He has been unrelenting in punishing others for mistakes such as Phil Hogan, and former Ministers Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary.
“Leo made a serious error of judgment and would have had to go if he was an ordinary Minister.
“Leaking a private confidential document to a rival organisation would seem to be a greater sin than inadvertently attending a dinner which breached COVID-19 guidelines.
“The fact that the person to whom Leo leaked the document was a personal friend and that he sent it the latter’s home address demonstrates that Leo knew he was doing something underhanded.
“While Leo has admitted doing wrong, frankly his explanations have actually made the situation much worse by claiming he did it for the greater good. That is simply incredible.
“The whole episode smacks of arrogance and a belief that the elite are not bound by the rules which apply to the ordinary citizen.
“Leo has had an image problem as a ‘posh boy’ and this will only make matters worse in that regard.”
Mr Varadkar served as Ireland’s leader from 2017 to June of this year, and was involved in face to face talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year in a bid to resolve the key sticking point of the backstop for Northern Ireland.
He is due to return as Taoiseach in 2022 in accordance with the terms of the coalition deal.
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