On Saturday 1 November, Village Magazine published an article alleging that the Tánaiste (deputy leader of Irish government) Leo Varadkar – while still Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) – leaked a confidential document containing the copy of an agreement between the government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to his friend, Maitiú Ó Tuathail, then President of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) – a rival body to the IMO. In doing this, Varadkar breached The Official Secrets Act. In other words: Village claimed that Leo Varadkar broke the law.
While Varadkar has since admitted that he gave the document to Ó Tuathail, and that it was inappropriate to do so, he claims it was not illegal. The Taoiseach Micheál Martin and other members of the cabinet made similar statements in support of the Tánaiste. A criminal investigation of this affair remains a real possibility.
However, we should have no illusions about the capitalist legal system. It exists to protect and uphold the laws of the capitalist ruling class; to be used as tools of oppression against ordinary people. In recent weeks the High Court issued an injunction against the Debenhams workers who are striking for proper redundancy pay. In the past, the courts have ruled against Greyhound strikers, and working-class people protesting the installation of water meters; not forgetting the notorious Jobstown political trial, where the full weight of the State apparatus was used against working-class protesters and in a bid to unseat Paul MurphyTD (a member of the Irish parliament). The water charges movement was a working-class revolt against austerity to which the only response the capitalist State had was trumped-up charges to intimidate the movement. A reminder that the legal system is never intended for use against corrupt politicians.
The Village article and its subsequent follow-ups have shown once again that political corruption is an integral part of how the Irish capitalist establishment works. While the days of the ‘brown envelope’ might appear to be over, there are other ways of rewarding Ministers and TDs (members of the Irish parliament) for favours. One only has to see how easily former ministers can be appointed to the boards of major companies or institutions to know the, ‘I’ll scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine’, culture is alive and well; after all, they’re hardly being hired for their excellent management skills.
The need for a National Health Service.
There is one issue that has flown under the radar throughout this controversy, and that is the nature of the contract between the government and the IMO. According to Varadkar in his Dáil Statement, it was an agreement that covered the transferring of some medical duties to GPs and introduced free GP care for people over 70 and children under 6.
While we recognise that the IMO have every right to negotiate on behalf of their members, we need to ask: how is it that doctors and government officials get to decide who can or cannot have free medical care?
Everyone should be entitled to free medical care. This is why Militant Left argue that we need a single-tier National Health Service free at the point of delivery, which will eradicate the problems besetting the under funded health system: no more bed shortages, no more waiting lists, and for fully staffed hospitals; Primary Care Centres employing GPs and other essential medical staff to provide much-needed community care for people with chronic illnesses. For working-class people it would get rid of the scam that is the private health sector and erase the need for expensive health insurance. This insurance is basically a further tax on working people.
It would also eliminate the kind of underhanded corrupt dealing between government ministers and vested interests which the story of ‘Leo the Leak’ has exposed. It remains to be seen if Varadkar will survive in office. It is quite possible that he will be forced out, only to return in a year or two. Even if he is forced out he is guaranteed a lucrative career lobbying for the private medical industry.
But, once again, after decades of Tribunals of Inquiry the fundamentally corrupt nature of the capitalist political establishment in Ireland is clear for all to see. So long as the two main right wing parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, remain in power they will use their positions to protect the financial interests of their establishment backers and funders.