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IMO response still awaited on NAGP-Varadkar controversy

The IMO has yet to issue a statement on the decision by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to give a copy of a 2019 GP agreement it negotiated with the Department of Health to rival organisation, the NAGP.

Revelations about the leak emerged in Village magazine on 31 October causing considerable political upheaval, with opposition parties calling on the Tánaiste to explain his actions.

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar apologised to the IMO and members of the medical profession for his “error of judgement” in leaking the agreement to Dublin-based GP Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, then President of the now defunct and discredited NAGP.

The Tánaiste began his speech by lauding GPs for their commitment to communities.

He described GPs as “hardworking, committed, dedicated people, rooted in their community” before going on to refute some of the allegations made against him while admitting his “error of judgement”.

While the IMO has remained silent on the controversy, doctors have been commenting in a personal capacity on social media.

Former President of the IMO Dr John Duddy stated on Twitter, “These actions make it more difficult for trade unions to negotiate in good faith with the State if the potential exists for details to be leaked to vested third parties.”

Separately, several doctors commenting on Twitter offered support to Dr Ó Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar has admitted to passing on a copy of the GP agreement to Dr Ó Tuathail. He said this action was intended to help garner support from GPs for the agreement after division among GPs emerged in 2016 following the under-sixes GP deal.

He rejected, however, that he had anything to gain personally by handing over the document. The Tánaiste said the details were already in the public domain.

On 4 April 2019, prior to the official announcement, the Medical Independent reported considerable detail about the deal in an online news story.

The Tánaiste referred to a press release from the IMO on 5 April 2019 outlining details of the agreement, highlighting that contents of the deal were widely known before he gave Dr Ó Tuathail a copy of the agreement sometime between 11-16 April.

The “bitter rivalry” between the NAGP and IMO at the time made agreement harder to achieve and “held back progress”, the Tánaiste said in his speech.

The 2019 deal, widely supported by GPs, included a €130 million FEMPI reversal package, an €80 million chronic disease plan, and new maternity and paternity leave provisions.

The NAGP is still under investigation by the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement. Last week, when asked for an update, the Office said it was “unable to comment on individual cases”.

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