Sunday, 29 Nov 2020

Leo Varadkar legacy in RUINS: ‘Posh boy’ condemned after huge error of judgment with leak

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And Ray Bassett, former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, suggested there was private glee at the Fine Gael leader’s plight within the ranks of coalition partner Fianna Fail, at Mr Varadkar getting what they saw as his “comeuppance”. Mr Varadkar has been roundly criticised by, among others, Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein, and the Labour Party, led by Alan Kelly, in the wake of the controversy.

The 41-year-old, who is himself a doctor, last April couriered a draft of a new contract for GPs negotiated between the Government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to Maitiu O Tuathail, a friend who was head of a rival group, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

Mr Varadkar has since apologised for “errors of judgment” – but also described suggestions he had benefited personally from his actions as “false and deeply offensive”.

Nevertheless, Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said Mr Varadkar could scarcely be surprised by the reaction.

Leo made a serious error of judgment and would have had to go if he was an ordinary Minister

Ray Bassett

Mr Bassett told Express.co.uk: “There is no doubt that Leo Varadkar has been personally damaged by this story.

“He has been unrelenting in punishing others for mistakes such as Phil Hogan, and former Ministers Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary.

“Leo made a serious error of judgment and would have had to go if he was an ordinary Minister.”

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Referring to the breach of coronavirus regulations which forced the resignation of among others European Commissioner Phil Hogan over the summer, Mr Bassett said: “Leaking a private confidential document to a rival organisation would seem to be a greater sin than inadvertently attending a dinner which breached COVID-19 guidelines.

“The fact that the person to whom Leo leaked the document was a personal friend and that he sent it the latter’s home address demonstrates that Leo knew he was doing something underhanded.

“While Leo has admitted doing wrong, frankly his explanations have actually made the situation much worse by claiming he did it for the greater good. That is simply incredible.”

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Mr Bassett added: “The whole episode smacks of arrogance and a belief that the elite are not bound by the rules which apply to the ordinary citizen.

“Leo has had an image problem as a ‘posh boy’ and this will only make matters worse in that regard.”

The chaotic nature of Ireland’s ruling three-party coalition meant Mr Varadkar was unlikely to face any official sanctions, Mr Bassett predicted.

He explained: “There is glee within Fianna Fail privately that their tormentor in chief has got his comeuppance.

“However they desperately want to hold on to power and will be reluctant to endanger that by demanding his resignation.

“The Greens are in disarray and will not want to precipitate another election. So Leo is safe for the moment.”

Mr Bassett also suggested there was disquiet even within his own party.

He said: “It was also interesting that it took a few days before Leo’s colleagues in Fine Gael came out in his defence.

“I understand that there is some anger in the party that he was so careless and made such a stupid mistake. However, there is no immediate possibility of them dumping him.”

Looking to the future, with Mr Bassett due to return to his old job in 2022, Mr Bassett added: “The disclosure that Leo had acted in this way, and probably will be subject to an ethics enquiry, will damage him but it is too early to say whether it will destroy his prospects of becoming Taoiseach again.”

Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Varadkar to offer him a chance to respond to Mr Bassett’s remarks.

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