Leo Varadkar says he cannot check when he leaked document because he doesn't keep texts 

Leo Varadkar says he cannot check when he leaked document because he doesn't keep texts 

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he no longer has the 2019 messages he exchanged with Maitiu Ó Tuathail, the then head of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

The Tánaiste has said he cannot check details of his correspondence relating to the leaked GP contract documents because he does not "as standard" keep his text messages.

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he no longer has the 2019 messages he exchanged with Maitiu Ó Tuathail, the then head of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

But he said he does keep any correspondence sent to his personal email address which he believes could constitute a public record.

Mr Varadkar made the comments in the Dáil on Thursday in response to questioning from Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty.

The Fine Gael leader has come under fire this week for passing documents regarding a GP pay deal with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to the NAGP, a rival organisation.

He has admitted leaking details of the pay deal but denied any wrongdoing and said he did so in the interest of securing backing for the agreement from all groups of general practitioners.

On Thursday, Mr Varadkar came under pressure from Mr Doherty to explain why he does not have the messages he sent Mr Ó Tuathail, as the Tanaiste had stated in the Dáil on Tuesday.

"You told this House that you spoke to Maitiu O Tuathail in recent days to try and verify when you sent the document to him because, as you said to the House here on Tuesday: 'I do not have that WhatsApp message any more and I wanted to check the exact date I sent the document'," Mr Doherty said.

"Tanaiste, can you explain to us what you mean by this? Have you deleted these messages?"

The Donegal TD suggested the messages could have been subject to Freedom of Information requests.

In reply, Mr Varadkar said: "When I did check my WhatsApp messages it wasn't there. I don't as standard keep all text messages.

"I do have a personal email address. Anything on that that could constitute a public record I then forward on to my official account. But I don't as standard keep text messages."

Mr Doherty said he had compared the draft document given to Mr Ó Tuathail with the final agreement made between the IMO, the HSE and the Department of Health, and that there were at least 35 changes between the two documents.

"The reality is the discussions were still live and ongoing," he said, adding that part of Mr Varadkar's argument for leaking the documents "just doesn't stack up to scrutiny".

Mr Doherty said that "every one of the 130 pages" of the document given by Mr Varadkar to Mr O Tuathail was marked "Confidential, not for circulation".

He claimed Mr Varadkar was "annoyed that he got caught" leaking the documents.

"Instead of accepting responsibility for your actions, you just threw Maitiu Ó Tuathail under the bus and then you decided to reverse over him," he claimed.

The Sinn Féin TD argued that Mr Ó Tuathail was "absolutely in his right" to act in the interests of his members and request a copy of the document.

The "wrongdoing" was in Mr Varadkar's actions, Mr Doherty claimed.

Mr Varadkar said he had "very clearly and very definitely accepted responsibility" for his actions when he made his statement in the Dail on Tuesday.

The Tánaiste said he does not have a copy of the draft document he sent to Mr Ó Tuathail and so he does not understand how Mr Doherty was able to make the comparisons between the draft document and final version.

Mr Varadkar added that any changes made were "so minor" they did not require a return to Cabinet.

Mr Doherty also asked if a second document, a shorter six-page one, had been sent with the confidential contract.

Mr Varadkar said he did not recall a second document.

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