Sunday 19 November 2017

Gormley denial of ultimatum

THIS was Environment Minister John Gormley's exchange with Anne Doyle on Thursday night's RTE News.

AD: John Gormley, thanks very much for joining us. Yesterday in the Dail your members supported that motion of confidence in Minister O'Dea, perhaps you can bring us through what brought about the change in your attitude overnight?

JG: "First of all, I want to pay tribute to Willie O'Dea. It's a sad day (not just) for those of us in Government but indeed for everyone in politics to see a colleague depart in this way, and he did so because he felt it was a distraction from the business of Government and we are very anxious that Government continues to do the job it has set out to do -- namely, to get us out of the economic difficulties that currently exist.

"Yes, there were difficulties yesterday, we stated that. The fact is that I did speak to Willie O'Dea yesterday and there were misgivings in the party over the nature of the attacks and the smear on another individual in politics and certainly that was a cause of anxiety in my party.

"On the other substantive issue, we couldn't make a call on that and we tried to get more information and certainly the article that appeared in the Limerick Leader didn't do anything to really put our minds at ease on that particular issue. We felt it was going to become a continuing distraction and I think that was recognised by Willie O'Dea and for that reason he has decided to tender his resignation and I think it's a very sad day for Irish politics."

AD: Was it the case that Fianna Fail did bounce you into this confidence motion yesterday?

JG: "Well, as you know, what occurred yesterday is that the opposition said they intended putting down a motion of no confidence and the Government responded on the floor that it would table a confidence motion there and then.

"So yes, members were taken by surprise. I did have a chance to speak to Mr O'Dea and he told me that there would be a newspaper article that would vindicate his position. Unfortunately that didn't happen and in fact there was a tape today that perhaps exacerbated matters.

"It was clear to everyone involved in Government that this was going to prove to be a distraction; it was recognised by Willie O'Dea himself and therefore I think the matter of resignation became inevitable."

AD: Minister, at teatime, the Taoiseach was still supporting Willie O'Dea fully. Did you threaten to pull out of Government if Mr O'Dea didn't step down?

JG: "Well I'm not in the business of issuing threats or ultimatums. I want this government to work, I want to ensure we work in the best interests of the country and pursue a very advance agenda not only on economic recovery but on sustainability.

"We had a discussion, a very fruitful discussion and we decided that this was the best course of action under the circumstances."

AD: Well Minister, if you're not in the position of issuing ultimatums, can I put it to you as party leader is it possibly the case that an ultimatum (was issued) to you by party members? It looks like one was tweeted by Senator Dan Boyle last night. Is it the case that you were forced to change your mind?

JG: "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, complicated legal issues, and we decided it was an issue that needed to be tackled. We went to our party members, as many of them we could talk to, and it became very clear that this was a very difficult issue for party members.

"I then discussed the matter with the Taoiseach, so from the Green Party, yes there were difficulties but the real difficulty was it would be a major distraction from the business of Government."

AD: John Gormley thank you for your time.

Sunday Independent

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