The Tánaiste has described an article published in the current edition of The Village magazine as "inaccurate and grossly defamatory".
The report alleges that Leo Varadkar shared a copy of detailed GP contract negotiations with the president of the now-defunct National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) which would have benefitted the IMO's rival organisation.
The leak is alleged to have happened in 2019 when Mr Varadkar was Taoiseach.
In a statement this afternoon, the Minister for Enterprise said he had sought legal advice on the content of the article.
He admitted that he provided a copy of the IMO contract to the NAGP and added that communicating the contract agreement to the NAGP "was not best practice".
He said that the agreement on GP contracts was negotiated by the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation and was publicly announced by the IMO on April 5th.
Subsequently, on April 6th, the agreement was announced by the HSE and welcomed by the then-Taoiseach and the Minister for Health.
Therefore, the information was in the public domain and "not something that was confidential or sensitive" after April 6th.
Mr Varadkar then states that a copy of the agreement to the then head of the NAGP Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail "on a date" between April 11th and 16th.
Very lengthy statement in from Leo Varadkar calling the Village article “inaccurate and grossly defamatory”. Here’s some of what it says. Tánaiste seeking legal advice pic.twitter.com/qWD3UDslCz
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) October 31, 2020
He says the provision of the agreement to Dr Ó Tuathail needs to be seen in the context of the potential unfairness of one representative body for General Practitioners (the IMO) having access to the agreement, at a time when the other representative body (the NAGP) did not.
In this regard, Leo Varadkar said the Government had publicly committed to keep the NAGP informed as to the progress of negotiations on the Agreement.
He says there was, however, nothing in any way unlawful about the provision of the agreement to the President of the NAGP.
There had been increasing calls from opposition parties for the Tánaiste to answer questions about the alleged leak.
Sinn Féin Enterprise Spokesperson Louise O'Reilly said it was "an extremely serious situation" and that "this isn’t tittle-tattle or indiscretion".
She said that the alleged disclosure of "commercially sensitive information to a personal friend who was a senior member of a rival organisation to the one that the government was in negotiations with" was "information that could have been of financial benefit to this rival organisation".
Leo Varadkar has questions to answer - @loreillysf
"The allegation is that, while Taoiseach, Varadkar disclosed commercially sensitive information to a member of a rival organisation to the one government was in talks with on a contract worth millions."https://t.co/cPjnPRYeFG pic.twitter.com/U9zMGlSXFI
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) October 31, 2020
RISE TD Paul Murphy said that if the allegations are true, it would amount to "a serious criminal offence".
He said: "His [alleged] leaking of confidential information available to him in his role as Taoiseach to a personal associate who stood to benefit from that information would represent a breach of the Criminal Offences (Corruption Offences) Act 2018.
"As indicated by The Village article it may also constitute a breach of the Official Secrets Act, 1963.
"It would also be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct for Office Holders which requires the ‘highest ethical standards’ as well as the Code of Conduct for Members."
Co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall said the party was extremely concerned about the allegations and called on Mr Varadkar to make a statement.
The Labour party’s Enterprise spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Mr Varadkar "must make a statement in the Dáil on Tuesday and answer questions about the report".
Main image: Leo Varadkar speaking to the media in March. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie