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Saturday 25 February 2017

Coalition spin on O'Dea falls apart

Taoiseach, ministers inconsistent in explanations of 'ultimatum'DEEP RESENTMENT: Willie O'Dea, pictured with his wife Geraldine yesterday, reveals his upset at the role of Senator Dan Boyle and sections of the media. Photo: Gerry Mooney

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

The Government's spinning of Willie O'Dea's resignation lay in tatters last night following a raft of deeply inconsistent statements from members of the Cabinet.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and various ministers including Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and Green Party Leader John Gormley sought to present a united front following Mr O'Dea's resignation.

However, it is now clear that John Gormley, acting on an ultimatum from Green Party chairman Dan Boyle and others, issued a "de facto ultimatum" to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who in turn issued another "de facto ultimatum" to Willie O'Dea, who had no option but to fall on his sword.

The inconsistencies in the statements coming from different members of the Cabinet are a further embarrassment for Mr Cowen in a week in which he lost one of his most trusted lieutenants.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend, Mr O'Dea said he will believe to his dying day that he was the Fianna Fail head on the Greens' plate, unlucky enough to be caught in the glare of the headlights when they needed to prove their political virility.

In the moments after Mr O'Dea's resignation on Thursday night, Mr Gormley twice declared he was not in the business of issuing ultimatums. "I'm not in the business of issuing threats or ultimatums. I want this Government to work," he said.

When asked had he issued an ultimatum he said: "No that isn't the case. Our parliamentary party met today and we looked at all of the issues involved in this matter and they are complicated issues."

Micheal Martin told RTE News: "John Gormley did not give any ultimatums, the Taoiseach and John Gormley have a good working relationship, they engage on a continuous basis. I think the desire of John Gormley and the Taoiseach is for a strong, cohesive, focused approach to the issues that face the country. That's what we are in government for. Willie O'Dea has made this decision."

It has since emerged that Mr Martin's unequivocal comments were made in the absence of any briefing from the Taoiseach or anybody else and were made moments after the official news of Mr O'Dea's resignation was announced.

On Friday, further deep discrepancies in the stories from various Cabinet ministers and Mr O'Dea emerged.

While the Taoiseach in Navan maintained that Mr O'Dea alone took the decision to resign, Mr O'Dea himself clearly contradicted that on Friday by saying he went when the Greens said they would no longer support the Government had he remained.

Mr Cowen said Mr O'Dea had contacted his office shortly after his interview on Thursday on the News at One on RTE Radio and was already moving towards a decision to step down by the time he and Mr Gormley discussed the matter later that day.

"It had already been indicated to me by Willie O'Dea that he was very much of the view that he did not want his presence in Government to become a matter of instability for Government," said Mr Cowen.

At the same time Mr O'Dea said: "I decided to resign after speaking to the Taoiseach and it became clear that the Green Party would no longer support the Government if I were to stay in the Government. It would have made the continuation of the Government impossible -- that's what I was told."

Also on Friday, Mr Gormley clearly agreed with Mr O'Dea's version of events.

He said: "I indicated to the Taoiseach that in my view, Mr O'Dea's position was untenable and the stability of the Government would be under threat as a consequence."

However, matters yesterday took another twist as Mr Gormley's spokesman appeared to do another U-turn claiming that no ultimatum was made by Mr Gormley to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

"There were no ultimatums or threats, the minister was stating a simple fact, easily understandable in politics," the spokesman said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday called for the Green Party to pull out of Government if it had any sense of moral fibre.

Mr Kenny said the Greens should withdraw from this administration and not be tainted by the "self-preservation tactics of Fianna Fail".

He said the different versions between the Greens and the Taoiseach over how Mr O'Dea left office showed that the Coalition is divided and "incapable of telling the truth to each other, never mind the people of this country".

Sunday Independent

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