Article 'inaccurate and grossly defamatory': Tánaiste addresses allegations of document leak

Article 'inaccurate and grossly defamatory': Tánaiste addresses allegations of document leak

The Tánaiste is seeking legal advice after an article was published in the Village magazine which he has described as "both inaccurate and grossly defamatory".

The Tánaiste is seeking legal advice after an article was published in the Village magazine which he has described as "both inaccurate and grossly defamatory".

A report in the Village magazine claimed the then Taoiseach provided a confidential copy of a state contract to the head of a rival organisation.

A statement issued on behalf of Leo Varadkar said: "The facts are that the 2019 Agreement on GP contractual reforms was negotiated by the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) (the “Agreement”).

"Following lengthy negotiations, the Agreement was agreed and the essential details of it were publicly announced at the beginning of April 2019.

"On Friday, 5 April 2019, the Agreement was publicly announced by the IMO. The details of it were extensively described in a Press Release that issued on that day."

He added: "The fact that an Agreement had been reached, and the nature of that Agreement was not something that was confidential or sensitive after 6 April 2019. On the contrary, this information was in the public domain."

The statement continues: "The Taoiseach, in his capacity as Head of Government, was keen that the Agreement would be well received by the General Practitioner community. General Practitioners are not employees. They are self-employed contractors and they had the individual entitlement to accept or reject the new contract.

"At this time, Dr. Maitiú Ó Tuathail was the President of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), an alternative representative organisation of General Practitioners.

"The then Taoiseach did provide a copy of the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail on a date between 11th and 16th April 2019.

"The Agreement was provided to Dr. Ó Tuathail, as President of the NAGP in circumstances where the Taoiseach believed that the deal was a positive one for General Practitioners that the Government wished to see implemented. He hoped to use Dr. Ó Tuathail’s influence to encourage all GPs to accept it including those represented by NAGP.

"The Agreement had been negotiated with (and was therefore already in the possession of) the IMO, and the publication or circulation of the Agreement to the members of the IMO was within the discretion of the IMO, which had already issued a press release setting out its essential content.

"The provision of the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail requires to be seen in the context of the potential unfairness of one representative body for General Practitioners (the IMO) having access to the Agreement at a time when the other representative body (the NAGP) did not.

"In this regard, the Government had publicly committed to keep the NAGP informed as to the progress of negotiations on the Agreement.

"Therefore, the provision of a copy of the agreed and publicly announced Agreement by the Taoiseach to the President of the NAGP was honouring a political commitment previously made by the Government. It is important to emphasise that by that point, the Agreement had been agreed and its content had been publicly announced previously.

"By definition, given that it had been extensively negotiated between Government and the IMO, many people outside Government in the IMO were already well aware of its content, and the essential details of the Agreement had been described in press releases which were reported upon in the national media.

"The provision of a copy the Agreement to Dr. Ó Tuathail, in his capacity as President of the NAGP occurred in circumstances where the legitimate objective of this action was to encourage acceptance of the Agreement amongst the General Practitioner community.

"The entire purpose of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health issuing a Press Release on 6 April 2019 was to advance precisely the same objective.

"The Tánaiste accepts that the provision of the Agreement by an informal communication channel to the President of the NAGP was not best practice and he regrets that he did not ensure that it was provided in a more appropriately formal manner.

"There was however, nothing in any way unlawful about the provision of the Agreement to the President of the NAGP."

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