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18 February 2010 Edition

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O'Dea should resign or be sacked

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea changed his story when the tape recording of his interview was revealed

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea changed his story when the tape recording of his interview was revealed

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that Defence Minister Willie O’Dea abused both democracy and the courts and should resign. He said his “continuing defence of the indefensible” made his position untenable. He added that if the minister did not voluntarily resign, Taoiseach Brian Cowen should sack him from the Cabinet.
The Sinn Féin TD was speaking on Tuesday after other opposition TDs called on the Minister for Defence to make a full statement regarding issues that have arisen after a defamation action was taken against him last December by Limerick Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan. O’Dea, a trained solicitor, was forced to admit, following the production of a tape recording of his comments, that he had lied in an affidavit to the High Court.
Ó Caoláin pointed out that “what has been forgotten in the controversy over Defence Minister Willie O’Dea is that the falsehood he swore in an affidavit to the High Court was in the context of an election.
“Last year, prior to the local elections, Minister O’Dea made a false accusation against Sinn Féin candidate, now Councillor, Maurice Quinlivan. Maurice sought an injunction in the High Court to prevent the Minister repeating the accusation. The High Court refused the injunction on the basis of the Minister’s affidavit, which falsely swore that he never uttered the defamatory statement. In other words he misled a High Court judge into refusing the injunction at that crucial time.
“This was the situation at the time of the local elections in June. Our candidate had to fight that election with 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.
“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.
“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. He should resign as Minister and if he does not do so the Taoiseach should dismiss him. “How can people in this state 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?”

Unconvincing
On Tuesday night O’Dea made a statement in the Dáil to try to defuse the controversy surrounding his conduct, but Ó Caoláin said this would convince no one.
“It is absurd for the minister to claim that the matter was ‘a personal one’ between him and ‘a Sinn Féin representative in Limerick’.  
“Willie O’Dea was speaking as a Cabinet Minister and Fianna Fáil TD and he made a deeply defamatory and personally damaging statement about Maurice Quinlivan,” said Ó Caoláin. “The minister did this not because of personal animosity between them but because Maurice was a candidate in the local government elections of last year and had rightly been highly critical of the government and of Minister O’Dea in his political capacity.  
“The minister claimed that he corrected ‘the mistake’ when he realised it. That is stretching credibility since it took him four months to do so.  
“The Minister’s statement in the Dáil was neither ‘non-argumentative’ nor ‘strictly personal’ and so was outside the provisions of Dáil Standing Orders for such a ‘personal explanation’.”
Sinn Féin has now tabled a motion of no confidence in the minister.
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