Leo Varadkar begins by saying he will be apologising "for his errors of judgement"
Varadkar: The 2019 deal "was broadly supported by the IMO" but not by the rival group, the NAGP, which made agreement harder to achieve. The Government decided to negotiate with the IMO alone, as an ICTU member, but committed to keeping NAGP informed of progress in negotiations
Varadkar: In 2015 the campaign led by the NAGP against the under-6s contract was "very disruptive" and delayed its rollout; I wanted to avoid that in 2019…
(There are quite a few Fine Gael TDs, unable to sit due to social distancing, standing around the lobbies at the back of the chamber - something of a show of solidarity)
Varadkar: "The suggestion I had anything to gain in anything of my actions is false and deeply offensive"
Varadkar argues that his interest in securing GP approval for the draft contract was a legacy of his own pledge to complete his 'unfinished business' from his own time as MInister for Helath
Varadkar: A memo was brought to Cabinet by Simon Harris on Tuesday 9 April saying "engagement had concluded with the IMO"
Varadkar: "The fact is that an agreement had been reached, and the nature of the agreement was not something which was highly secret… all the salient information was in the public domain"
Varadkar: "In the normal course of events, agreements are published within days… on reflection it would have been better if that practice had been followed here; I fully respect, however, that the IMO wanted to do it differently"
Varadkar: "It was a good deal and I wanted it to be universally accepted" and to avoid similar delays to that affecting care for under-6s
Varadkar: I posted a copy of the agreement to Dr [Maitiú] Ó Tuathail "on a confidential basis, believing that publication was confidential anyway…" and that he would see how positive the deal was, thus mollifying any possible disagreement. He'd see there was nothing to oppose
Varadkar: "It has been alleged that there was something improper, or even criminal… Ó Tuathail has been described as 'a Varadkar cheerleader' … yes, there are many examples of his public support for me, but there are plenty of examples of the opposite". He cites some.
Varadkar: "There is nothing inappropriate about informal contacts of this nature, per se - in fact little would be done without them, and we all know it."

He also says friends and acquaintances often friend to be closer to those in power than they really are…
Varadkar: I never confer help to people anything that bestows special favour or advantage of them. Having said that, I do accept that having shared the agreement through informal channel was not good practice… It was an error, and one I accept sole responsibility for
Varadkar: "I do regret it, and I am sorry for the controversy and annoyance my actions have caused - including to the medical profession, the IMO, the members of Government, and the House."
Varadkar: "I made an error of judgement in trying to achieve that result… there was nothing selfish or dishonest, let alone corrupt of illegal, in what I did."
Varadkar confirms that Ó Tuathail "requested" the copy of the deal, which Varadkar had obtained by the Department of Health. He had already obtained one, disposed of it, and requested a second copy through a special advisor. Not sure whether this was before or after MOT's request
He asked for a second copy "because I wanted to read it again."

"Seriously?" says Pearse Doherty.

While I was outside doing a live piece on TV, it seems the Ceann Comhairle referred to Leo Varadkar as "the Taoiseach".
Pearse Doherty is now reading from what appear to be new screengrabs of Maitiú Ó Tuathail's interactions with Varadkar, and with Simon Harris.

Doherty suggests Ó Tuathail went for lunch with Harris for Wicklow, and says the messages show O Tuathail also lobbied Harris for a copy
Varadkar refuses to engage with those messages, saying he can only answer for his own actions, and not anything said by someone else.
The messages show Ó Tuathail exchanging Twitter DMs with Simon Harris, in which he claimed the IMO would only give the deal to 20% of members, and that he wanted to get the deal over the line but couldn't do so without seeing it.

Harris replied, "will make inquiries on that".
Varadkar: "Dr Ó Tuathail is the kind of friend I'd meet two or three times at a year, perhaps at a drinks reception or in some overlapping social circle … we're not best mates or anything like that."
Aodhán Ó Riordáin reads from another of the newly-released messages, where Ó Tuathail tells Chay Bowes: "Leo constantly pulling strings for me. You've no idea … he'd be r***d if the IMO lads knew he was giving me shit"

LV: "He is over-egging this, and that's a big part of this"
Varadkar: Ó Tuathail "made out he was closer to me than he was."

"I gave it to him on a confidential basis… engagement with the IMO had concluded".

"The fact that a hard-copy document says 'confidential' on it doesn't mean it stays confidential forever," he adds.
Ó Riordáin: "Why does he say, 'To be fair, Leo always delivers'?"

Varadkar: "I can't answer questions on behalf of those people. It's evident that Dr Ó Tuathail, for his own reasons, made out he was closer to me than he was."
Ó Riordáin says the NAGP was about to keel over at the time and Varadkar surely knew. "You helped your pal, who asked for the document. Either you're complicit, or you're a stooge. Which is it?"

Varadkar: NAGP was very effective in hampering progress on under-6s care in 2015
Ó Riordáin: "Your buddy, your pal, the guy with the Leo t-shirt, asked you for a copy o it. And you said yes. Do you not feel either you were reckless in your behaviour… or that your explanation here this evening has no credibility whatsoever?"
Varadkar says he should have invited Ó Tuathail in for a briefing, line-by-line or page by page; "because I knew him, almost as a short-cut," he chose to post it out.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has also just referred to Varadkar as the Taoiseach.

He seems to appreciate the momentary levity by correcting her.
Catherine Murphy reads from the newly-distributed screen grabs. Varadkar tells Ó Tuathail on April 15 - two days before it arrived - "There may still be some changes made to it, so don't take it as gospel".
Murphy asks Varadkar what consequences there would be if a civil servant had acted in such a way. Varadkar says there'd be serious issues "if they weren't directed to do it" but in this instance the prime minister himself had authorised it
[drink.gif] https://twitter.com/newschambers/status/1323689642487615491
Murphy: What did you understand Ó Tuathail's motivation to be?

Varadkar: I can only speak for myself. I can't speak for other people's motivations… most of those people I don't know. I don't know them at all.
Varadkar: "All I can do was explain my own motivation."

He adds that he "thought" Dr Ó Tuathail was "one of the decent people" in the NAGP.

Varadkar tells the Dáil he didn't know the financial pressure being faced by the NAGP at that time, and again says his view of NAGP was that it was an effective lobbying group.

Murphy says NAGP's issues were publicly known, and Varadkar would "be more than paying attention"
Varadkar: "I wasn't aware that it was in such difficulty. What I did know is that it had hundreds, if not thousands, of members" and that it had been "very influential".
Varadkar: "This was not the way I should have gone about this. I should have done this in a different way… I've learned from it and I won't do it again"
Varadkar to Paul Murphy: Ó Tuathail was "a friend, yes. Not a close friend. Someone who did turn up at an event - I think, one - during the time I was running for leader of FG… but also someone who since then organised a protest outside…"
Varadkar: "He was very definitely not a political supporter at that time."

Murphy: Is it purely coincidence that this friend and political supporter of yours received the document? Would any other president of the NAGP got it?

LV: "The president of the NAGP would have got it."
Varadkar: "The engagement with the IMO had concluded. There were some major changes subsequently, nothing significant, we didn't have to go back to Cabinet with them."
Murphy reading Ó Tuathail's text to Chay Bowes; "Leo constantly pulling strings for me. You've no idea … he'd be r***d if the IMO lads knew he was giving me shit". Asks if it's accurate

Varadkar: "I don't know about trouble, but they would have been annoyed"
P Murphy: Do you see how Dr Ó Tuathail received a benefit, received an advantage, from receiving the document? He's the one in the 'NAGP Inner Sanctum' who can boast about getting the document.

Varadkar: No, I don't. He was not a political supporter, certainly by that time.
Varadkar: I gave it to him because he as president of the NAGP. When you're president of the organisation I don't know what advantage it confers on him, he's already the top of the organisation.

P Murphy suggests he helped him get re-elected
Varadkar is asked if he'll sue. His advice is "that the front page is defamatory; that large content within the article is defamatory. Their claim that my benefit from this was that Dr Ó Tuathail wrote nice tweets about me a year later. Not only is that incorrect, it's laughable"
P Murphy asks again if he'll sue. Varadkar says there are "many other options" to tying someone up in the High Court; he says he understands Village is "largely self-funded", has no editorial board, and intimates there would be little to be gained financially through doing so
Varadkar disagrees that the Official Secrets Act prohibited him from releasing the document, whether it was confidential or not. "If the Taoiseach doesn't have the power to authorise the release of information, I don't know who does"

P Murphy says this is a Trumpian defence.
An hour into the Q&A and many of Varadkar's government colleagues are still standing in the lobbies at the back of the chamber. Four of his five FG cabinet colleagues are still sitting in the chamber.
Richard Boyd Barrett: Did it occur to you you should ask the Minister for Health about doing this?

Varadkar: When you're Taoiseach you're the head of Government. From time to time you personally intervene in issues… every Tuesday and Wednesday you're called on to intervene
Varadkar tells Peadar Tóibín: "I can understand why some people in the IMO feel their confidence is broken" and that's why he has apologised
Tóibín: Have you ever leaked confidential cabinet information?

Varadkar, after pausing for some time: "Nothing of this nature, Deputy…" Says all politicians leak from time to time.

There are some jeers from opposition. Tóibín follows up.

Varadkar: "Confidential? No."
Tóibín and then Mattie McGrath suggest Varadkar is getting better treatment than he offered to either ministers Cowen or Calleary.

He says he wasn't involved in either of them - Cowen was sacked by Martin, as was his prerogative; Calleary resigned before Varadkar heard
McGrath questions Varadkar on how close he and Ó Tuathail were, given publication of a picture of the two attending a Pride march.

Varadkar: "We all know the innuendo there. We all know what it is. We all know it was a big part of what was there in the article… it's not true"
Richard O'Donohgue draws a lengthy parallel about how when he questioned Varadkar about an issue at Leaders' Questions some time ago, the issue went to Dept Health and then to HSE before getting reply. He compares this to the direct access and answers enjoyed by others.
Danny Healy-Rae: "Ye [FG and FF] brought in abortion together, ye brought in Ross's [drink-driving] bill together… you shut down Bord na Mona together; ye're trying to shut down Shannon LNG, and you're bringing in the Carbon Tax together. When are ye going to tie the knot?"
Thomas Pringle diving into why this correspondence wasn't revealed by Varadkar before now.

"It wasn't something of issue," he says, several times. He says after the GP deal was broadly accepted the Govt simply moved on to dealing with other issues.
Varadkar also says his understanding of something being 'leaked' is that the information is put into the public domain
Catherine Connolly, to the point: "When did you realise you made an error of judgement?"

Varadkar: "I don't know."

Connolly: Was it when Village contacted you?

Varadkar: Don't think that would be fair… I didn't think about it, for months and months and months.
Varadkar: Village "did send an email to my office previously, asking if I'd given a document to a different doctor."

He says he didn't contact Ó Tuathail about the issue until the Village story was published, on "Friday night or Saturday or whenever".
Connolly asks about how others in other screen grabs speak. "I think those messages were deplorable too, but I'd never seen them until the last couple of days, and they weren't from me to anyone. They were between third parties, including people I don't know and never met."
Connolly: After Golfgate you said you had to lead by example in discipling FG members. Are you doing so now?

Connolly also reminds the Tánaiste of his previous joking boast of "seeing what I could do" when Donald Trump wanted him to stop a wind farm at Doonbeg…
Q&A concludes with that.

Simon Harris follows up some allegations raised earlier: there's nothing wrong with going for coffee or lunch with anyone but I didn't do that with Matt Ó Tuathail. On the day in question I was at an East Coast FM charity event.
Pearse Doherty asks about Harris's DM reply to Ó Tuathail ("will make inquiries on that. Let's grab a coffee soon").

Harris: The only inquiries I ever made were whether the deal might be ready to publish on the Department of Health website; I don't believe I ever had that coffee
And sin é.
Postscript: this from Harris's spokesperson, saying the same thing in writing - Harris did not meet Ó Tuathail in Wicklow at any point, nor did he "make any information or seek to make information available to the NAGP"
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