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No Confidence in Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea

17 February, 2010 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has opposed the Government motion of confidence in Defence Minister Willie O’Dea in the Dáil this afternoon.

Speaking during the debate Deputy Ó Caoláin said there should be no pretence that this was a personal matter and that Deputy O’Dea was acting as anything other than a TD and a Government Minister. Everyone knows that Minister O’Dea is the face of this Government in Limerick and the entire Mid-West region.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“In his so-called ‘Personal Explanation’ to the Dáil yesterday, Minister O’Dea maintained the charade that the matter was personal. 'The matter was a personal one between me and a Sinn Féin representative in Limerick', he claimed. It was as if it was a row between business rivals or a fall-out between neighbours. But even in the same paragraph the Minister contradicted himself when he said it was 'born out of heated political exchanges'.

“And Minister O’Dea and the Taoiseach and the rest are contradicted out of the Minister’s own mouth in his original affidavit to the High Court which began:

‘I am a sitting Teachta Dála for the constituency of Limerick East and I am also [a] Government Minister. I make this Affidavit from facts within my own knowledge.’

“The Minister in his affidavit defended his allegation concerning the brothel. He asserted:

‘I say and believe that I was fully entitled to raise this issue in my capacity as an ejected public representative to whom enquiries and concerns about the existence of this brothel had been expressed by a number of constituents.’

“So let there be no pretence that this was a personal matter and that Deputy O’Dea was acting as anything other than a TD and a Government Minister. Everyone knows that Minister O’Dea is the face of this Government in Limerick and the entire Mid-West region.

“How can the people have confidence in a Cabinet Minister who has acted in this way? How can the people of Limerick have confidence in such a Minister who has also presided over record unemployment in the Mid-West region and the virtual collapse of the long-promised Limerick regeneration? How can the people have confidence in a Government that defends the indefensible?

“We certainly have no confidence in this Government and we want to see all them, including Minister O’Dea, turfed out of office. That may have to wait until the Greens are eventually smoked out of the political bunker they are hiding in, or until someone on the back benches of Fianna Fáil finds a conscience. Otherwise our unfortunate country will have much more to undergo if Fianna Fáil and the Greens are allowed to continue to the bitter end of their term of office.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows:


No Confidence in Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Fein Dáil leader

On behalf of Sinn Féin I oppose this Motion of Confidence in the Minister for Defence Deputy Willie O’Dea. We have no confidence in this Minister and no confidence in this Government.

Dogged by controversy, the Fianna Fáil/Green Government has swiftly brought forward its own Motion of Confidence in Minister O’Dea today. It is a desperate effort to head off the issue and to reduce the length of time the Green Party Deputies will have to spend in the bunker they are currently occupying.

The Taoiseach and his Fianna Fáil and Green colleagues in Government have further shredded their already tattered credibility by fully backing Minister O’Dea. They are parroting his ludicrous and blatantly false defence that this was a personal matter between him as a private citizen and another private citizen of Limerick.

In the Dáil yesterday the Taoiseach repeated this when he said:
“The Minister was acting in his private capacity, not in pursuance of his ministerial duties.” And again: “The Minister was acting in a private capacity. It was not in pursuance of his ministerial duties that this issue arose.”

Well, Taoiseach, the Minister was acting alright – acting the maggot, as is his well-established inclination.

So let us take a look at the facts. They, of course, are totally different from the Taoiseach’s vain attempt to dismiss Minister O’Dea’s actions as something personal or unconnected to his political life and responsibilities.

Minister O’Dea, the Deputy for Limerick East, was stung by a political charge from Maurice Quinlivan, then a Sinn Féin local government candidate, in the run up to the June local and EU elections. The charge was that the Minister was wasting taxpayers’ money by having at his disposal six civil servants to assist with his constituency work. This was a political, not a personal charge. It concerned the deployment of public money which was allocated to the Minister’s office. It concerned Deputy O’Dea in his capacity as a TD and in his ministerial role.

Minister O’Dea chose to respond in a most scurrilous, despicable and personalised way by falsely and outrageously linking Maurice Quinlivan to the operation of a brothel in Limerick City. Minister O’Dea is a political animal and one of the highest vote-getters in the country. He knew very well what he was doing, even though his tongue often runs ahead of his brain. He was trying to prevent an electoral breakthrough by Sinn Féin and Maurice Quinlivan in Limerick City, which the Minister regards as his territory, his Fianna Fáil fiefdom.

Even if one were to accept the Minister’s original affidavit to the High Court which he admitted was false, the Minister would still have a have a very serious case to answer because of his false allegations that were published in the Limerick Chronicle, not to mention the even more serious charges which were not published but which he did utter and which were recorded on tape. This was totally inappropriate conduct for any member of the Oireachtas, let alone a Cabinet Minister.

In his so-called ‘Personal Explanation’ to the Dáil yesterday, Minister O’Dea maintained the charade that the matter was personal. “The matter was a personal one between me and a Sinn Féin representative in Limerick”, he claimed. It was as if it was a row between business rivals or a fall-out between neighbours. But even in the same paragraph the Minister contradicted himself when he said it was “born out of heated political exchanges”.

And Minister O’Dea and the Taoiseach and the rest are contradicted out of the Minister’s own mouth in his original affidavit to the High Court which began:

“I am a sitting Teachta Dála for the constituency of Limerick East and I am also [a] Government Minister. I make this Affidavit from facts within my own knowledge.”

The Minister in his affidavit defended his allegation concerning the brothel. He asserted:

“I say and believe that I was fully entitled to raise this issue in my capacity as an ejected public representative to whom enquiries and concerns about the existence of this brothel had been expressed by a number of constituents.”

So let there be no pretence that this was a personal matter and that Deputy O’Dea was acting as anything other than a TD and a Government Minister. Everyone knows that Minister O’Dea is the face of this Government in Limerick and the entire Mid-West region.

Faced with this outrageous defamation Maurice Quinlivan sought an injunction in the High Court to prevent Minister O’Dea from repeating his false statements. Minister O’Dea then swore the now infamous false affidavit. Justice Cooke in the High Court accepted the affidavit and on the basis of the Minister’s lie the judge refused the injunction application from Maurice Quinlivan.

That decision was made in the High Court on 20 April. From then until the local elections on 9 June, and afterwards, Maurice Quinlivan had the Minister’s false accusation hanging over him. Many people thought that because Maurice had lost the application for a High Court injunction he had lost the action for defamation. Despite this, Maurice succeeded in being elected to Limerick City Council for Sinn Féin, a testament to his and his party’s hard work on behalf of the people of Limerick and a sign also that the Minister had no credibility among the electorate in attacking Maurice’s character.

Minister O’Dea subsequently changed his story when the tape-recording of his interview was revealed. But the damage had been done during an election and it was only in December that Maurice succeeded in his defamation case. The Minister was forced to withdraw his comments and to apologise. The Minister claimed in his ‘Personal Explanation’ yesterday that he corrected ‘the mistake’ when he realised it. That is stretching credibility since it took him four months to do so.

I do not believe Minister O’Dea when he says that he forgot he made the defamatory remarks. I believe he has abused the democratic system and the courts and should resign. His continuing defence of the indefensible makes his position untenable.

Much has been made by Minister O’Dea and the Taoiseach of the terms of the settlement in the defamation action on 21 December, as if this exonerates the Minister. It does no such thing. Clearly Maurice Quinlivan accepted the legal advice he was given, having secured the vindication of his good name and the withdrawal by Minister O’Dea of his false and defamatory statements. The matter of the false affidavit sworn to the High Court in the earlier injunction has not yet been considered by any court. But the Minister must also answer to the people in his role as a public office-holder who is supposed to be a servant of the people.

How can the people have confidence in a Cabinet Minister who has acted in this way? How can the people of Limerick have confidence in such a Minister who has also presided over record unemployment in the Mid-West region and the virtual collapse of the long-promised Limerick regeneration? How can the people have confidence in a Government that defends the indefensible?

We certainly have no confidence in this Government and we want to see all them, including Minister O’Dea, turfed out of office. That may have to wait until the Greens are eventually smoked out of the political bunker they are hiding in, or until someone on the back benches of Fianna Fáil finds a conscience. Otherwise our unfortunate country will have much more to undergo if Fianna Fáil and the Greens are allowed to continue to the bitter end of their term of office.

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