Leo Varadkar doesn’t need to be “a bit more humble” now that he’s clear in the inquest that he leaked a confidential new GP contract to a friend.
But the present Tánaiste and soon-to-be Taoiseach survived a close shave made entirely by himself.
The head of the public prosecutor’s office has decided not to press charges in the case after a lengthy investigation in Garda. The probe hung over the Tánaiste, raising doubts as to whether he would indeed become Taoiseach again in December.
During their much-cited personal argument in the Dáil a few weeks ago, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty slammed the Tánaiste with a mockery of the investigation.
“I really thought that as someone the chief prosecutor is considering prosecuting under the Corruption Act, he would be a little more humble in his answer.”
Varadkar responded by noting that Doherty was prosecuted nearly a quarter century ago for “abusing and mistreating” a Garda. The Tánaiste also threw the kitchen sink at Sinn Féin about the Republican movement’s own past, including murder, rape and tax evasion. The skeletons of Sinn Féin in the closet are far more haunting than anything Varadkar or Fine Gael have done.
Nevertheless, the Tánaiste conceded moral authority with his behavior. The blame for this scandal lies firmly with him. Just because he won’t be prosecuted doesn’t mean his actions are appropriate.
In reply to last night’s confirmation that he would not be charged, the Tánaiste said: “I have always maintained that the allegations made against me were false. I am pleased with the result of a very thorough investigation.”
The problem lies in its interpretation. He can’t rewrite history. He had to apologize for leaking a confidential document to a personal friend in an organization not in official negotiations for a state treaty. Hardly a shining example of transparency in the office.
According to their own statements, the central leakage allegation is correct. The Garda investigation and review by the DPP has confirmed that his actions were not illegal or corrupt. The nickname “Leo the Leak” sticks.
The Tánaiste will make a further statement on the matter today, and an element of remorse would not fail. His own words of November 2020 when this controversy arose come to mind.
“It was a mistake for which I take sole responsibility.
“I regret and am sorry for the controversy and anger my actions have caused,” he said at the time.
Whatever showing humility, the Tánaiste would be well advised to learn some lessons from the affair and ensure there are no similar mistakes.
Closing the file eliminates a problem for the government, or as the Tánaiste put it, “a difficult time for all of us.” A pending prosecution would have made Varadkar unlikely to become Taoiseach and ended his leadership of Fine Gael. The devastating consequences have plunged the party into a crisis in which a leadership vacuum needs to be filled.
Assuming the coalition lives on, the Office of the Taoiseach is scheduled to move from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael in December, with Micheál Martin standing aside. Now that the question of his investigation is answered, it will definitely be Varadkar replacing him to serve a second term as Taoiseach.
Attention will now turn to who he will take on in the associated reshuffle. Fine Gael are still languishing in the polls and there is an appetite for a refresher in the line-up to take them into the next general election. The Tánaiste has spoken about hating dropping colleagues, but he will have to show ruthlessness.
Varadkar’s protégé Helen McEntee is safe and likely to remain Attorney General. Then it’s about whether the others are too big to fail. Simon Coveney and Paschal Donohoe are veteran heavyweights but are constantly linked with roles in Europe and beyond. Remaining Varadkar means their chances of becoming a leader are gone.
Heather Humphreys has geography, gender, and good judgment in her favor.
Simon Harris now has every reason to be nervous. With no leadership position to contest, does Varadkar want to keep him on the biggest stage?
The end of speculation over Varadkar allows the government to focus on the pressing business of the day: the cost-of-living crisis, the post-Covid-19 housing disaster and healthcare reform, as well as economic challenges and climate change.
The focus can now be on the end of September budget, which is brought forward to provide financial relief for inflation in an earlier time frame.
The coalition majority has been gone since last night. Retired Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh, a supporter of Varadkar in his Fine Gael leadership campaign, voted against the government over the Glimmer reparations program and has now lost the party stick.
The coalition has now shrunk to 79 TDs but its majority of Dáil votes is unquestionable as it can still call exiled members and independents.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/leo-the-leak-varadkar-survives-to-become-taoiseach-again-assuming-coalition-lives-on-41819981.html Leo ‘the Leak’ Varadkar survives to become the Taoiseach again – assuming the coalition lives on