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16 June 2005 Edition

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McDowell under fire in the Dáil

"It is time to get rid of this arrogant, right-wing and incompetent minister."

— Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Bertie Ahern found it tough going in the Dáil this week as he tried to defend his Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, from attacks from the opposition during Leaders' Questions on Tuesday.

While both Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte concentrated on the findings of the Morris Tribunal as the basis for their attacks on McDowell, Ó Caoláin decided on a broad attack, raising all the issues that make it clear that the Minister is totally inadequate. He called on the Taoiseach to remove him from office.

Caoimhghín's decision to attack the Minister on a broad front clearly confused An Ceann Comhairle, Rory O'Hanlon, who told him: "It is clear under Standing Orders that one topical issue may be raised" and asked him to resume his seat. But Caoimhghín persevered, saying: "One topical issue is the conduct and suitability of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the fact is that the evidence I have highlighted demonstrates he is clearly unfit for that office."

He pointed out that the Taoiseach's defence of McDowell "will rest very uncomfortably with many on the government backbenches, who have clearly flexed themselves in regard to the minister's recent kite-flying vis-à-vis café bars. I am sure they feel the same disdain in regard to much of what the minister says, many of them certainly on his utterances on asylum seekers because those utterances have clearly fuelled bigotry and racism."

The opposition heckled the government side of the house while behind the Taoiseach the backbenchers sat quietly, clearly uncomfortable.

Bertie Ahern defended Michael McDowell by stating the obvious -- "It is fairly obvious that Deputy Ó Caoláin does not like the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I believe that the minister acted properly in regard to all the matters raised and I fully support him."

Speaking after the debate Caoimhghín said:

"The Taoiseach has stood up and staunchly defended this arrogant Minister — a minister who has deported Irish children; a Minister who has stirred up racism and hatred against immigrants and asylum seekers through his use of inflammatory rhetoric and the misuse of his legislative powers; a Minister who fails to act when corruption within the gardaí is exposed to the world and who will not carry out real reform; a Minister who wants to give more draconian powers to the unreformed Gardaí; a Minister who denies equality and rights to people with disabilities; a Minister whose anti-republican bile has poisoned the Peace Process.

"This Minister's conduct of the Peace Process has been greeted with glee by the most bigoted section of unionism.

"The Taoiseach stands over the approach of a Minister who has labeled one newspaper, Daily Ireland, as Nazi because he disagrees with its position on the Peace Process, and who said another newspaper, The Irish Examiner, was like something out of Weimar Germany because it did not agree with him. He is defending the indefensible.

"We already know that the Minister with responsibility for equality has nothing but contempt for equality because he has repeatedly said so himself. It is time to get rid of this arrogant, right-wing and incompetent Minister."

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