The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will be “highly unlikely” to decide whether or not to prosecute Leo Varadkar over the leak of a confidential government document by December, when he is set to become a prosecutor, according to the Sunday Independent.
The news will raise concerns across the coalition and in Fine Gael in particular over whether Varadkar can become Taoiseach again on December 15, when doubts remain as to whether or not he will be prosecuted for leaking a document marked confidential to a friend 2019 when he was Taoiseach in the last reign.
Last night Green Party leader Eamon Ryan declined to say if he thinks Mr Varadkar can take up the position of Taoiseach in 235 days if the ‘leak’ matter is still under consideration by the DPP.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin also declined to comment but previously said he had no problem with Mr Varadkar succeeding him later this year and is said to maintain that view.
Mr Varadkar’s spokesman insisted the Tánaiste was “very confident” he would be acquitted after his lawyers told him the Garda investigation was over and a file was with prosecutors.
Officials from the specialized National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) are understood to have sent the Garda file to prosecutors in recent days. Security sources point to the size of the Garda file sent to the DPP as an indicator that it will take the prosecutor “well over nine months” to make a decision on the “highly complicated” matter.
Mr Varadkar was examined in April 2019 when he met his friend Dr. Maitiú Ó Tuathail, who was then head of a competing organisation, had leaked a confidential copy of a document setting out the details of the government’s proposed general practitioner contract with the Irish Medical Organization, the National Association of General Practitioners.
The Tánaiste has agreed to pass on the contract details to Dr. Ó Tuathail apologizes but insists he has committed no crime.
Sources told the Sunday Independent that Gardai have not made either recommendation as to whether the Tánaiste or Dr. Ó Tuathail should be prosecuted. Instead, “they left the decision to the DPP.”
Yesterday when An Garda Siochana was contacted confirmed it had sent a file to the DPP for consideration.
The Garda file on the Tánaiste’s leak of a confidential government document to his friend is said to run to “hundreds” of pages. dr Ó Tuathail is subject to “the same level of Garda scrutiny” as Mr. Varadkar in relation to the file he further shared after it was passed on by the Tánaiste.
A well-placed source explained: “The NBCI investigation was a mammoth undertaking. The force is apolitical, we made sure the investigation was exhaustive and it is now up to the DPP to decide whether or not to prosecute anyone.
“Gardaí has not made any recommendation. Given the size of the Garda file, the amount of evidence and testimonies, it does not seem realistic that the DPP will have made a decision by December.”
A separate senior security source said the DPP “cannot and will not be rushed”.
The source explained, “In cases where Senior Gardaí contact the DPP to inquire about the status of a criminal record that the prosecutor is reviewing, the answer is the same: ‘Do you want correct guidance or quick guidance?’
“If the DPP files a criminal complaint, it must be able to stand in the process. The DPP cannot and will not be rushed because of external factors – the political status of Varadkar in December is irrelevant to the independent prosecutor.”
It is understood that the DPP, Catherine Pierse, was directly involved in the assessment of the Garda file in relation to Mr Varadkar and his disclosure of the confidential document to Dr. Ó Tuathail will be involved. She will assign it to the senior attorney in her office.
In addition, Ms. Pierse is expected to also refer the case to an outside senior counsel for additional independent legal opinion before deciding whether or not to pursue charges.
It is becoming standard practice for the DPP office to seek outside counsel in high profile cases.
A recent example of this is the murder of Deirdre Jacob. The DA has sought the opinion of a senior attorney on whether charges should be brought against Larry Murphy. This Garda file was sent to the prosecutor’s office over two years ago and Gardaí are still awaiting direction.
“For large cases – and Mr Varadkar’s case is a very large one – the DPP also seeks external legal advice on whether there is sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge. This, too, is delaying the DPP’s direction as more experts examine all the Garda evidence,” according to a well-placed source.
“Furthermore, the DPP often comes back to investigating Gardaí with a series of questions and follow-up questions before providing direction. It’s often a slow process. The length of the Garda investigation into this matter is likely an indicator of how lengthy the DPP assessment of all the evidence will be.”
Asked directly whether Mr Ryan believes the Fine Gael leader can assume the position of Taoiseach on December 15 – which is expressly stated in the government program – if the matter is still under consideration by the DPP, the Green Party spokesman said : “It would be inappropriate for the minister to comment on ongoing investigations: the DPP must now be given the necessary time to examine the file sent to it by the Gardaí – preferably without being distracted by political speculation.
“As the DPP’s deliberations move forward, the parties and leaders of the ruling coalition will remain focused on the critical issues affecting the daily lives of the country and the people.”
Mr Martin’s spokesman said: “As this matter is now with the DPP it would not be appropriate to comment.”
In February, Mr Martin said he would have no difficulty in facilitating Mr Varadkar’s election as Taoiseach later this year if the matter is not finalized – a position the Taoiseach is said to still hold.
“As far as I’m concerned we have an agreement with both Fine Gael and the Green Party on formation and the change of government and that will continue and we will honor that,” Mr Martin said in February.
“The presumption of innocence is very important in our society, and I don’t think the rules should be different for politicians or anyone in relation to a very basic principle in a democratic society. So that’s very clear to me.”
Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said: “The Tánaiste has been informed by his lawyers that the Garda inquiry has now ended. A file is with the DPP.
“We are aware that the Gardaí have not made any recommendation. It is now up to the DPP to look into the matter.
In the meantime, Dr. Ó Tuathail completed the Garda investigation last night. He told that Sunday independent: “As I have already said, I have always cooperated fully with the Gardaí.
“I welcome the fact that the investigation is now closed after being underway for well over a year and I hope that a decision from the DPP is forthcoming.”
Chay Bowes, the businessman and activist who first revealed that Mr Varadkar verified the document through an article in Dr. Ó Tuathail leaked village Magazine in October 2020, said last night: “It will be up to the courts to decide whether any laws have been broken when charges are brought. Mr Varadkar has admitted what he did was wrong. It is up to the DPP to decide whether a court will decide if it was illegal.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/varadkar-being-taoiseach-again-in-doubt-as-dpp-wont-be-rushed-41581847.html Varadkar is Taoiseach in doubt again as DPP ‘will not be rushed’