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Another example of old boys’ network in action

November 9th, 2020 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

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Varadkar maintains that any assertion that he leaked a confidential contract agreement was ‘inaccurate and grossly defamatory’ 

A LOAD of ‘malarkey’ greeted the public admission by Our-Totally-Beyond-Reproach Tánaiste, Leo (Vlad) Varadkar, that in 2019 he was involved with the National Association of General Practitioners in drafting an agreement concerning GP contracts and the government.

According to ‘Village’ magazine, the possibility existed that, if Vlad had divulged info on the contracts, he would be in breach of Section 7 of the Criminal Offences (Corruption Offences) Act 2028, the Official Secrets Act, 1963, the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018, the Dáil members’ Code of Conduct 2002, and the Office Holders’ Code of Conduct 2003.

But, last Sunday, according to an RTÉ report, the Tánaiste denied that he acted unlawfully by sharing an agreement reached with the Irish Medical Organisation with a rival group..

Meanwhile, Deputy Paul Murphy (formerly People Before Profit etc, etc, and  now representing an outfit with the interesting moniker of ‘Rise’) was busy pushing the line that a possibility existed that Varadkar could face criminal prosecution if there was substance to the allegations that he had disclosed details of the GP contracts! ‘It would not be tenable for him to continue as a Minister, never mind as Tánaiste,’ he declared.

Varadkar, to his credit, dealt with the criticism in a sharp and lucid way. He made it perfectly clear that any assertion that he leaked a confidential contract agreement was ‘inaccurate and grossly defamatory.’

And that, it was hoped, would put an end to the political allegations of acting unlawfully!

It didn’t!

Blood-curdling!

In fact, Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly informed the nation that, according to Section 7(2) of the Criminal Offences (Corruption Offences) Act 2018, ‘any Irish official who uses confidential information obtained in the course of his or her office, employment, position or business for the purpose of corruptly obtaining a gift, consideration or advantage for himself or herself or for any other person shall be guilty of an offence.’

A blood-curdling prospect, indeed.

And, to add fuel to the fire, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said it was somewhat troubled by the emergence of  an ‘informal communications channel’ that had been established with the National Association of General Practitioners, (NAGP), then a rival to the IMO.

In response to the IMO’s criticism, Vlad said he ‘regretted’ that the channels of communication between himself and the NAGP had not been structured in a more ‘appropriately formal manner’ and admitted that, indeed, he had provided a copy of the IMO contract to the NAGP – course of action which, he said, ‘was not the best practice.’

He also pointed out that details of the GP contracts, having been negotiated by the Department of Health, the HSE and the IMO, were put in the public domain on April 6th 2019. Consequently, after April 6th there was nothing confidential or sensitive about the deal with the doctors.

All of which did not deter shrieks from backbenchers who called for clarification on ‘serious and specific allegations about the disclosure of a confidential government document,’ and that the ‘old boys’ network’ needed to be broken up once and for all.

At which point, it sadly became clear to the plain people of Ireland that the topic of public health and politicos once again had become mired in a parallel universe of posturing and obfuscation. We deserve better!

Much exagerrated?

And now for something different: the demise of Fianna Fáil!

As The Bard might have put it, Mickey’s critics are sprouting like dragon’s teeth. Last week, for instance, two respected Fianna Fáilers, Paddy Ryan and Don Davern, took to the Irish Mirror to warn that ‘the party had never before been at such a perilous low level.’  It was ‘on the cusp of extinction because of its leadership.’

Even more depressing, the two lads expected the party would ‘to die a peaceful death’ and become ‘a faint and distant memory’ unless the leader (Mickey) and the ‘party hierarchy’ were ‘taken on.’

The warning was a fine example of dramatic prose: ordinary, straightforward and packing a punch that dramatically got across the ‘Mickey Must Go’ message.

But of course, what really prompted the latest critics to go public was the fact that the Soldiers of Destiny were on a miserable 9% in the opinion polls, ‘a record low in the party’s 94-year history.’

In their stirring address to county councillors, the dissidents presented themselves as  the ears of the party and its very frontline. What’s more, if councillors had been consulted on a more regular basis by the leader and parliamentary party, FF would not now be in the ‘terrible position’ that it is in today!

Clerical comments

Interesting too that Mickey’s recent meeting with top leaders of the Catholic Church, Archbishops Eamon Martin, Diarmuid Martin, Michael Neary, Kieran O’Reilly SMA and Dermot Farrell, was not much trumpeted.

In a statement, the ecclesiastical top brass said they fully supported the government’s public health messages re coronavirus, but stressed the importance of worship as a source of consolation and hope at Christmas time.

In response, Mickey thanked the religious leaders for ‘reaching out’ to the marginalised and he outlined the reasoning behind the government’s plan for living with Covid-19.

Finally, after much back-slapping at the great job Church and State-were doing, both groups went their separate ways, leaving curious punters like ourselves wondering what it was all about.

The answer may well be in a pressstatement from the very Catholic Aontú political party.  Carrying the headline ‘Stopping Mass will be a Disgrace,’ it warned the government that closure of the churches ‘would be to the detriment of mental health and the well-being of many elderly people.’

The elderly, Aontú said, had been contacting the party about mass and that ‘the freedom for people to practice their faith in a socially-distance environment had done wonders for their mental health and well-being … There has not been one cluster or outbreak linked to a mass service.’

Yet, warned Aontú ominously, ‘Mass and churches were on the chopping block!’

A joke to finish!

And now for something different:  In response to recent comments on euthanasia in the columns of this newspaper, a reader from Clonakilty sent us a wad of jokes relating to the topic. Some weren’t bad, such as this one:

‘Yesterday night I was talking to my wife about euthanasia. I insisted that in case I become incapacitated in any way, I wish to be taken off all the equipment that keeps me artificially alive and left to die in peace.

‘She said OK and then stood up, turned off the TV and the computer, and threw away the beer!’

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