Leo Varadkar hits out at 'bullies' in Dail chamber
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And Ray Bassett has told Ireland’s former Taoiseach and current Tanaiste, or deputy Prime Minister, his fate now lies in the hands of the Gardai, or police, who yesterday launched a criminal probe into the affair. Fine Gael leader Mr Varadkar, 42, is under enormous pressure as a result of his admission he sent a copy of a doctors’ pay deal between the State and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to his friend, Dr Maitiu O Tuathail in April 2019, while he was still serving as Ireland’s leader.
The confirmation of the police investigation prompted Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Fein, to call for his resignation, declaring: “This was a political stroke, pure and simple.
“It was an abuse of power by the then-Taoiseach designed to give advantage to a friend.”
Mr Varadkar – himself a qualified doctor – continues to deny breaking any laws, while apologising and admitting his actions were “not best practice” – but Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, suggested the pressure may ultimately may his position untenable.
He told Express.co.uk: “This controversy has badly damaged the Leo Varadkar brand without any doubt.
“His Fine Gael party has always prided itself on being different and more modern than what they claimed was the more venal Fianna Fail.
“Leo has also portrayed himself as the representative of a new progressive Ireland and very different to the old cosy insider way of doing politics.”
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Mr Bassett added: “The fact that he deliberately kept his own Minister for Health, Simon Harris, in the dark about the terms of the agreement and the fact that he had slipped it to a rival organisation, smacks at underhand dealings.
“He was clearly advantaging a personal friend.
“Even if Leo is not charged, there will be a lingering suspicion that a line has been crossed in terms of integrity.”
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Mr Bassett warned: “If he is charged, especially for corruption in public office, I believe that he would have to step down.
“There is a warning here for all politicians who go on solo runs and leak documents for selfish reasons.”
Mr Varadkar’s predicament had wider implications, Mr Bassett said, given his continued high profile since being replaced as Taoiseach by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin last year.
He explained: “Leo is by far and away the most capable and popular of his party’s leading figures.
“Simon Coveney may covet Leo’s position as leader but Coveney lacks any charisma and is regarded as being on the dull side.
“Therefore Leo’s party (Fine Gael) will be desperately hoping that somehow he will be exonerated.
“However Leo’s fate rests on the outcome of the police investigation.”
Speaking to the Dail, Ireland’s main legislature, in November, Mr Varadkar insisted: “There was nothing selfish, corrupt, dishonest or illegal in what I did.”
He also described as “false and without foundation and deeply offensive” suggestions that he had anything to gain personally from disclosing the document.
He subsequently survived a no-confidence vote – but the affair has led to him being nicknamed Leo the Leak in media circles.
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Varadkar offering him a chance to comment on Mr Bassett’s remarks.
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