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Enda just being himself as Dail debates rights and the wronged

Willie O'Dea comfortably survived yesterday's "confidence" vote in the Dail but his reputation took a battering.

In the Dail debate, Mr O'Dea said the information that his opponent ran a brothel came from a member of the gardai -- but it later turned out to be untrue.

Abuse and personal insults were exchanged in the robust debate for more than an hour before the Government won by 80 votes to 69.

The Taoiseach proposed a vote of confidence in Mr O'Dea and turned the tables on Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, asking him why he had tabled the "no confidence" vote.

"Is it because of the traumas Deputy Kenny and his party endured last week," said Mr Cowen.

"The opposition's eagerness for a motion of no confidence is a motion premised not on the implementation or the administration of the programme for government commitments on defence, but rather on Enda Kenny's promise to his parliamentary party in the aftermath of the George Lee debacle that . . . what I'm going to do now is be myself," said the Taoiseach.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, a barrister like Mr O'Dea, dismissed opposition charges that Mr O'Dea had perjured himself and said the poll-topping Limerick TD had corrected his statement when he found out it was wrong.

Mr Lenihan accused the opposition of "acting as judge, jury and executioner".

Minister Eamon Ryan was the only member of the Green Party in the chamber for the debate and he looked uncomfortable supporting his cabinet colleagues.

Mr Ryan added the caveat "as I understand it" to nearly every sentence as he explained Mr O'Dea's defence of his actions.

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Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny adopted his new "being myself" persona, had no prepared script and spoke from notes.

Mr Kenny spoke directly to Mr O'Dea and the Taoiseach, and drew an unintended, spontaneous laugh when he referred to the Defence Minister as "the holy trinity in one".

"He's sitting there as an officer of the court and an appointed Cabinet minister, an officer of the court and a constitutional seal of office holder," said Mr Kenny. "It's not just about Deputy O'Dea, it's about standards at the highest level."

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore didn't pull his punches: "I am frankly amazed that the Taoiseach should seek to retain in Cabinet a man who wilfully committed perjury. If this happened in the neighbouring jurisdiction, a Cabinet minister wouldn't last until the end of the day."

The Defence Minister launched a counter-attack after Fine Gael's education spokesman Brian Hayes called him a "political Pinocchio".

Mr O'Dea said: "If Fine Gael and Enda Kenny's idea of standards, judgment and ethics is to punish those who admit honest mistakes, then there are many, many honest, decent and law-abiding people who should fear the prospect of Enda Kenny ever becoming Taoiseach."

Mr O'Dea added: "I do not expect praise from the benches opposite.

"But I do not think it is unreasonable to expect some level of propriety and fairness. It seems I am wrong to expect even that."

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