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O'Dea quits after the Greens get their scalp

DEFENCE Minister Willie O'Dea was forced to resign last night -- leaving Fianna Fail and the Green Party squabbling over what prompted his departure.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen claimed Mr O'Dea's resignation came after they had a conversation -- indicating it was the former minister's own decision.

But after voting confidence in Mr O'Dea a day earlier, John Gormley last night said the situation had changed and his party felt Mr O'Dea could no longer continue to be a minister. He listed a series of reasons why they wanted the Defence Minister to go.

After a day where pressure mounted on the minister, Mr Cowen formally announced the resignation.

While he continues as a TD, Mr O'Dea will receive a "golden parachute" payment of almost €100,000 in compensation for losing his cabinet post.

Mr Cowen thanked Mr O'Dea for his "hard work and commitment" in carrying out his duties as minister.

The Taoiseach assigned the Department of Defence to himself for the present, but will name a new minister next week.

Mr O'Dea said he had come to the "regrettable conclusion" that his continuing in office "will only serve to distract from the important and vital work of Government in addressing the serious challenges that the country continues to face at this time".

In his letter acknowledging Mr O'Dea's resignation, Mr Cowen directly referred to a telephone conversation with the minister after his interview on RTE Radio's 'The News At One', which was viewed as the final blow.

"On the basis of our conversation, I very much appreciate that your decision reflects your own desire to ensure that the important work of Government is not diverted by the current controversy," he wrote.

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Mr Cowen is understood to have been aware of the contents of the interview, where Mr O'Dea claimed he was a "victim". However, Mr Cowen's claim is undermined by his expression of support for Mr O'Dea yesterday afternoon, where he repeatedly referred to the motion of confidence passed by the Government.

Mr Cowen and Mr Gormley met at 3.30pm, after the Green Party ministers, TDs and senators met to discuss their stance. The minister's resignation was confirmed at this meeting.

After his party voted confidence in Mr O'Dea, the day before, Mr Gormley gave a series of reasons to explain his party's change in attitude.


"Yesterday afternoon I met Willie O'Dea and he assured me that an article in today's 'Limerick Leader' would vindicate him. The article published today does not do that.

"At the very conclusion of yesterday's Dail debate, Mr O'Dea said his actions in the matter were based on information given to him by An Garda Siochana.

"We were concerned by this behaviour," he said.

Mr Gormley said his party had taken the view that Mr O'Dea's comments during the debate were "inappropriate".

"All these factors have led us to conclude that Willie O'Dea could not continue as a member of this Government."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Mr O'Dea's resignation was an inevitable consequence of his swearing of a false affidavit before the High Court.

"The refusal of the Taoiseach and his colleagues in government to demand any accountability for this behaviour was the reason that I tabled a motion of no confidence in Deputy O'Dea on Tuesday night," he said.

Green Dublin City Council candidate Gary Fitzgerald yesterday lodged an official complaint with gardai over alleged perjury by Mr O'Dea. But gardai would not comment last night on whether they were launching a full investigation.