A Fine Gael junior minister has admitted that the Tánaiste could have "done better" in communicating the details of an Irish Medical Organisation agreement on GP contractual reforms to another group.
It was reported in the Village Magazine yesterday that Leo Varadkar passed the document on to the NAGP last April, however, he insists it was after the details had been published.
He admitted that he provided a copy of the IMO contract to the president of the now-defunct NAGP and added that communicating the contract agreement "was not best practice".
Mr Varadkar has also maintained that there was nothing unlawful about sharing this information, despite questions from the opposition about the timeline of events.
Fine Gael Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Colm Brophy admitted that the lines of communication were not best practice.
He told On The Record with Gavan Reilly: "I think the Tánaiste made it very clear in his comments yesterday, and the statement that he made, and he'll take questions on this during the week, there's no problem in doing that, is that it probably could have been done better in terms of communicating out.
"But the process of communicating out what was widely known from April 5th/6th in terms of the deal is that you want as many GPs on board as possible.
"That's the way regulations govern the way GPs work, they work as independent contractors.
"You want as many of them as possible to be on board and to accept it and to be working this deal.
"Because the deal was a good deal for GPs and enhanced medical services."
Mr Brophy continued: "I think the Tánaiste has said, looking back on it, there could have been a better way of communicating that out.
"But getting the information out there was the right thing to do so that you could have buy-in from as many GPs as possible.
"At the heart of it there's this, there's an article there which is completely wrong and the Tánaiste has said, what we have here is an issue about how that communication took place.
"Absolutely, could have been done better but it's a really positive thing which is to improve GP services.
"At the end of it, he has made clear as of yesterday that it could have and it should have probably been done in a better way and it wasn't.
"The key thing is getting the information out, I think, was the right thing."
Mr Brophy added he didn't believe anything "untoward" had transpired.
Calls for detailed account
Last night, the Green Party joined calls for the Tánaiste to give a full and detailed account of the GP contracts issue that was raised in the article
The party said it was "clear from what has been revealed that the passing on of sensitive information in this manner was not appropriate".
A spokesperson added: "The timelines and the full impact of the disclosure on all involved needs further scrutiny."
1/2 - The Green Party notes the statement from the Tánaiste following the revelations in Village Magazine. The party is calling on the Tánaiste to give a full and detailed account to the Dáil on the issue and to allow sufficient time for the statement followed by questioning.
— Green Party Ireland (@greenparty_ie) October 31, 2020
Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan said the magazine report included "a serious and specific allegation" and said the Tánaiste should make a statement clarifying the situation.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Twitter today that "when a document is marked 'Confidential and Not for Circulation' that means the document is confidential and must not be circulated to third parties (including friends)".
She added: "Good faith negotiations rely on understanding this very simple concept. Alarming that Fine Gael can't grasp this."
Responding to Mr Varadkar's statement yesterday, Labour's Enterprise spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it was clear that the agreement "was leaked in a clandestine, improper and unethical way".
Mr Varadkar expected to face sustained questioning over the issue when he comes before the Dáil next week.