Ireland’s Leo Varadkar condemns anti-gay ‘innuendo’ around friendship with doctor amid leaked document scandal

Leo Varadkar speaking at an event

Leo Varadkar has hit out at “innuendo” around his friendship with a gay doctor after he faced calls to resign over a leaked document.

The Irish tánaiste (deputy prime minister) has faced a week of significant backlash after Village magazine revealed that he had leaked a confidential government document to a friend in April 2019.

Varadkar admitted to leaking details of a government agreement with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) with Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, former president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NGAP), which has since been dissolved.

After days of controversy, Varadkar addressed Ireland’s parliament, the Dáil, on Tuesday (November 3) – but questions from elected representatives quickly took a turn when Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath suggested that Ó Tuathail and Varadkar were “very close friends”, according to the Irish Independent.

In his statement, McGrath spoke about a photo of Varadkar with Ó Tuathail at Dublin Pride in 2019.

“Some are distance friends, some are absent friends and some are friends for the time being. I just had a photo on my phone here of you and Dr Ó Tuathail involved in a certain march in Dublin in 2019. Very close contacts and very close friends,” McGrath said, raising heckles from members of parliament.

He went on to suggest that Varadkar had been used “as a puppet” by Ó Tuathail.

We all know the innuendo here. We all know what it is.

Responding to McGraths’ remarks, Varadkar said: “We all know the innuendo here. We all know what it is. We all know it’s a big part of what was there in the article (in Village magazine) and what’s there online. And it’s not true deputy.”

He continued: “I know what’s being said, it’s not true. This is somebody who is not a close friend.

“He’s in my wider social circle. I’d say we’ve met twice in the last year. Once at a Christmas drinks thing over a year ago. Once when six people went out to dinner, and he was one of the six and I was one of the other six.

“And we would be in touch and other things. He’s very involved on the issue of COVID. We don’t have the same mind on COVID by the way. He supports the zero COVID strategy, I’m sceptical about that.”

Varadkar said he and Ó Tuathail would “talk about that”, but said that was as far as their friendship went.

Leo Varadkar faces motion of no confidence.

While the tánaiste denied any wrongdoing, it looks as though the controversy won’t be going away anytime soon.

Leo Varadkar has faced intense scrutiny from opposition parties over his leaking of the confidential document.

On Friday (November 6), opposition party Sinn Féin tabled a motion of no confidence in Varadkar, which will be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday (November 10).

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the party was left with “no choice” but to table a motion of no confidence “given the seriousness” of the situation.

The party said Varadkar had faced “no sanction” and said he had failed to give a credible account explaining how he came to provide the confidential document to Ó Tuathail.

Varadkar made history when he became Ireland’s first ever gay taoiseach in 2017 as the leader of Fine Gael.

After losing seats in the 2020 general election, his party brokered a deal with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to enter into a three-party coalition.

Under the terms of the agreement, Varadkar will serve as deputy leader until December 2022, at which point he will become taoiseach again for the second half of the government’s lifespan.

Varadkar came out publicly as gay ahead of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum in 2015 during an interview on RTÉ Radio 1.