“I Can’t Answer That For You”

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From top: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; former head of the National Association of General Practitioners Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail; Minister for Justice Helen McEntee

This morning.

Minister for Justice and Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee spoke to Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about The Village reporting over the weekend that, back in April 2019, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential agreement reached with the Irish Medical Organisation to his friend and then head of the National Association of General Practitioners Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar has since admitted that he shared the document with Dr Ó Tuathail on a date between April 11 and 16, 2019. He has denied that he acted unlawfully but admitted that his actions were not best practice.

In a statement released last night, Dr Ó Tuathail said:

“We received a copy of the finalised, agreed and announced programme for chronic disease management from the then Taoiseach in mid-April. This was seen as a continuation of the decision by the Government to consult with the NAGP and its GP members and keep them informed throughout.”

“We could not adopt a position on the programme for chronic disease management as a union, without full access to the details that it contained.”

During this morning’s interview, Ms McEntee told Ms Wilson that the agreement was reached on April 3, 2019, and that it had been widely circulated by the time Mr Varadkar shared it with Dr Ó Tuathail.

But she conceded it was not actually published in its entirety at that point.

Mary Wilson: “Minister, for clarity, was the agreement published?

Helen McEntee: “So the entire document itself was not…”

Wilson:Was not published…it was not in the public domain?

McEntee:It was not. However, what I do need to stress is that the deal had been reached, that the majority, if not all of the sensitive information, the information that the IMO themselves were then essentially campaigning with their GPs on had been agreed. It had been signed off by Cabinet, so any suggestion, and there seems to be a suggestion that this document was given for some sort of a) personal gain but also that there could be changes made, this did not come back to Cabinet. And everything that was agreed, the detailed information was already being campaigned on…”

Wilson: “Ok. But why, if as you say,…

McEntee: “To try and bring GPs on board.”

Wilson: “…it was all agreed, i’s dotted, t’s crossed, why was it then that the Tánaiste, who was the Taoiseach at the time, and the Minister for Health, why were they not calling in the NAGP, in a formal setting, walking into Leinster House, to have a look at this document. Why was it going, a document marked ‘confidential, restricted circulation, going by courier, to the head of the NAGP’s home?

McEntee: “So, again, and I go back to what you said at the very beginning and the Tánaiste himself has said the manner in which this was delivered could have been done better, it was not best practice, however, what he was doing and it’s important to say, that, you know, this wasn’t the first contact, there had been engagement with the NAGP throughout these negotiations but, as I said, the IMO, as the main representative organisation, the decision was taken to negotiate with them and, as I said, I do think a great deal was done by the IMO for their member. But this represented all GPs, it wasn’t just those who were represented by the IMO…”

Wilson: “Minister, in that case…”

McEntee: “That would have to understand this, that would have sign up. And so the commitment that was given to the NAGP, to keep them informed, again and I do accept and the Tánaiste accepts this, and I’m sure that he’ll say this again tomorrow when he answers questions, when he makes his statement and he was very clear that he would do that. The manner in which it was delivered could have been better. It was not best practice but the intention was clear.”

Wilson: “And yet Minister by the end of April, the NAGP members, it wouldn’t appear they had sight of this agreement?

McEntee: “Well, I suppose I can’t, I can’t say what happened after the document was given. The intention was that this was to ensure that GPs understood what they potentially were or were not signed up to so I can’t…”

Wilson: “A confidential, restricted circulation document.”

McEntee: “So, all of the information that was being, so to speak, decided upon. All of the sensitive information, the financial information, the nub of the details as I’ve said, the most sensitive of information was already out there. This was already signed off by Cabinet, this was already been campaigned on by the IMO, for the members to try and bring GPs on board.”

Wilson: “But we still come back, minister, we still come back to that fundamental question: Why then was this being put in an envelope, confidential, restricted circulation, sent by courier, by the Taoiseach, and he says now it was not best practice, to the head of the NAGP.”

McEntee: I can’t answer that for you. I…”

Wilson: “Isn’t that a question that needs answering though?”

McEntee: “And I think the Tánaiste will answer that and I have to say he was very quick to say that he had no problem in making a statement in answering these questions. He has said that that manner in which it was delivered could have been done better and I have no doubt that if he is asked that question that you’ve just asked me, he will explain it. But I cannot answer that. But I do know that he will answer any question that he is asked tomorrow in the Dáil when he makes his statement.”

Wilson: “He is the leader of your party, he is the Tánaiste, he was the Taoiseach at the time. Is trust a casualty here?

McEntee:On my part, no. And I say that on the basis of a) that I have worked with him for many years and find him to be an honourable person in every element of work that he does….”

Later

McEntee: “…a very clear commitment was given to the NAGP to keep them informed. There had been engagement with them throughout the negotiations and yes, the manner in which it was delivered could have been done better but the motivation here was a) to fulfil a commitment made by Government. And b) to ensure that as many GPs signed up to this as possible.

“The detail on which and, you know, I have to point even to a tweet I saw yesterday from an IMO council member who said that they were submitting articles on deep details to medical newspapers, they were presenting this deal to GP groups, they were phoning dozens of GPs, hundreds of GPs had the information that was in this document.

“The intention here was to try and get more people on board to sign this contact.”

Later

McEntee: “…the fine details had been published, it had been welcomed, Cabinet had agreed it, so you know, at this stage, hundreds of GPs had this information and the only intention and motivation here was to ensure that a very good deal…”

Wilson: “Briefly minister…”

McEntee: “…had been negotiated by the IMO…”

Talk over each other

Wilson: You are the Minister for Justice, would you leak a document in this way?

McEntee: Well I haven’t, you know, is the answer. Again I have to say this is information that was widely known by hundreds of GPs and hundreds of…”

Wilson: “But you still wouldn’t?”

McEntee: “…people…”

Wilson: “You still wouldn’t, even a document that you say was widely known, you wouldn’t do that?”

McEntee: “But, again, you have to ask what has actually happened here…”

Wilson: “No, no, it’s a simple, it is a simple question. A document, you say it was widely circulated, but it was still a confidential document, would you have leaked it in this way?

McEntee: Well, I think the manner in which it was done could have been done better so if I was in that position, whether I would have done it differently, in terms of how it was delivered but this was a commitment, this was a commitment made to the NAGP. You’ve asked if I’ve ever leaked a document. That’s separate. This was a commitment to the NAGP to try and make sure that they understood what their members were potentially voting on.”

Listen back in full here

Rollingnews

42 thoughts on ““I Can’t Answer That For You”

  1. Mr .T

    Car crash interview.

    Clearly doesn’t bode well for trust in Varadkar that he has leaked sensitive material – now not looking too good for McEntee that she wouldn’t rule out leaking sensitive docs also?

      1. millie

        There’s a time and a place to summon that woman, and it’s only after a small child or animal has been sacrificed on a full moon.

  2. Cian

    Varadkar is an eejit for doing that. The optics are really bad. But the fact that he did it himself would suggest that he didn’t think it was wrong and was doing it for the “right” reasons (i.e. not for personal gain).

    Still an idiotic thing to do.

    1. GiggidyGoo

      Sure Cian. The fact that he couriered it same day rather than e-mailed, or by inviting his buddy into Leinster House for a preview drops a depth charge on your ‘reading’ of it.
      He’s ‘an eejit’? That’s into ‘Boo Boo’ language.

    2. bisted

      …definitely sounds like the wagons are being circled…the mantra seems to be that the end justifies the means…the big question is…how is Leo going to blame it on the shinners…

    3. goldenbrown

      Cian, there’s very little you can do here to “tone down” the level of seriousness of all of this so just stop it. Please, it’s kinda insulting and it makes you come across like a twerp. You can do better. Please.

      Varadker is not an “eejit” and this is not merely about “optics” or any other soft adjectives you can fit into a sentence – he’s been caught red handed leaking confidential information to one of his buddies.

      How do you know there was no personal gain, hm? Personal gain doesn’t always immediately present itself like a cartoon $ emoji bag of cash, c’mon ffs!

      What’s this spin phrase again? “not good practice” ? Well I’d say it’s more “business as usual”. I’ll wager this isn’t Varadkers first rodeo.

      FG’s problem is that more and more this self-created optical illusion of being ze “party of law and order” is being dismantled….FF/FG is a neck and neck contest in that regard and they deserve each other! The dirty greasy till merchants being exposed yet again. Scum.

    4. TessFlynn

      If Leo gets away with this it gives permission for every Civil Servant to leak whatever they want as long at they believe it is for good reasons.
      What would Leo do if one of his officials did this? Would he keep them in a position of trust.

    5. Daisy Chainsaw

      How big of an eejit was Phil Hogan for leaking the budget a little earlier than planned? That turned out to be a resignation matter.

  3. GiggidyGoo

    I have some respect for Helen McEntee. It’s quickly ebbing away unfortunately. Straight questions, crooked answers.Not that she’d answer any differently mind you. Interestingly she didn’t say that she would uphold the confidentiality of such documents herself. ‘That’s separate’. My -oh -my

    There is no defense for leaking a confidential document of an agreement that wasn’t complete, to a buddy. If Varadkar gets away with this (and it looks like he won’t) then it sets a precedent, and anyone can use the same type of excuse and ‘Confidential’ is a word that has no meaning.

    1. Charger Salmons

      I’m in the molehill camp.
      Traditionally politicians leak to the media.
      In this case Varadkar was exchanging information with a group that was always going to receive that information anyway.
      He gained no financial or political advantage from it.
      But you can always rely on the Irish media to avoid uncovering the true scandals.

      1. goldenbrown

        “He gained no financial or political advantage from it”

        er Sir Humphrey, you do realise some of us on here understand how old boys networks function don’t you?

        nothing is ever direct

        Varadker didn’t leak the document for the lil bit of craic now, did he?

    2. GiggidyGoo

      I’d be pretty sure it’s a mountain. ‘Confidential’ is a very clear word. It’s used for a reason. As I said above, if it’s watered down to a meaning like Varadkar is making it out to be, then the word may as well be removed from the State’s legal language

      1. goldenbrown

        and I can see you’re enthusiastic for this but what you’re hoping for will never come to pass I’m afraid

        it’s the great thing about the trough – they all have skin in the game

        in this case if Mehole moves to shaft Varadker => GE => a FF extinction event and the appalling vista of the “Shinners” getting a foothold

        FFG love each other, unhappily married but stayin together cos they’re property trapped and for the sake of the kids like. it’s never gonna happen, sorry to inform you

        and Varadker will slither on till he reaches the marker post and collects that fat fat pension

        1. GiggidyGoo

          I don’t know Goldenbrown. Cowen and Calleary were snouts in the trough and they were jettisoned. Their misdemeanors were in the ha’penny league compared to this.

          The FG grassroots would just love to see Varadkar get his come-uppance too.

          1. goldenbrown

            you won’t get a GE

            also Varadker is absolutely disliked by a swathe inside FG, however…he may be a c**t but he’s their c**t

          2. GiggidyGoo

            I don’t expect a GE if he’s jettisoned. He’s a major reason why FG lost so many seats last time. It’d be a blessing for FG to remove him from the spotlight. If he doesn’t fall on his sword, no amount of RedC polls will work for FG.

  4. Joe

    A minister for justice defending the leaking of confidential material is really bad and it says a lot for the ethical probity of the office holder. It stinks.
    For a taoiseach of a country to be engaged in leaking confidential material , it highlights serious contempt for the office, contempt for the electorate and demonstrably someone entirely unfit for government.
    The more the rancid little lickspittles defend Leo The Leak, the more damage they will do themselves in the eyes of the public. The fallout from Varadkar’s behaviour will damage more political careers than his own. E.G. Simon Harris must be quaking in his boots now.

    1. GiggidyGoo

      Simon Harris is very quiet. Has no-one asked him (as he was Health Minister at the time) if he knew of this?

    2. rugfan

      Im not a fan of mcette and think its hilarious and terrifying that we have such a low caliber of politician here, shed be ridiculed more if she was a man .
      she was elected via the parish pump , has achieved little and fine bots used her in a propaganda campaign claiming credit for ‘improving the irish health (mental) system’ ..
      nonsense. she has no backbone whatsoever either and gets cross quickly, which people who cant justify their actions maturely usually do.

    1. goldenbrown

      well now, exactly Johnny. I’m glad to see someone’s awake in class this morning!

      FG are desperately trying to soft focus the narrative and lull enquiring minds….with the “ah he’s just a big eejit” cuddly Fr. Tedspeak

      nope.

      and as some sort of proof (lol) with “ah this is just hot air, shure he didn’t gain anything from it personally like”

      nope.

      in the greasy till old boys network nothing is EVER direct (that would be a worse sin than the jig itself)

      ffs do we ever learn?

      useful references: Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister, The Thick Of It, In The Loop…..etc.

      1. Johnny

        Most time I’m accessed being baked,which is kinda true,just not always ,but in fairness NWL on twitter pointed it out to me.
        So yes through that purple haze of humbolts finest….I latched onto this:)

  5. Daisy Chainsaw

    What’s the difference between Phil Hogan leaking a finalised but still confidential budget and Leo leaking a finalised but still confidential agreement with the IMO?

    Hogan was thrown under the bus for his actions.

  6. Kate

    Daragh Calleary got the chop for golfgate within hours for eating a dinner . One can offer explanation/excuses for Varadakar but posting to “a friend” , in his own handwriting, bypassing secretary , private secretary is a massive error and is a resigning matter.

    1. Vanessanelle

      Dara shouldn’t have got moany about not getting a Senior Ministry before Barry Cowen. Darragh O’Brien and Sr Norma
      + all his whinging about how a good soldier he was n’all

      and as for the other thing
      It might be a resigning matter in many organisations
      But this Government, nor the two previous, the Acting and the Confidence & Supply ones
      aren’t those type of organisations
      Nor is Leo Varadkar the kind of man that put his reputation for integrity ahead of his own ambition and ego
      besides Micheál Martin wouldn’t let him anyway

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