Sunday 18 March 2018

O'Dea remains defiant amid resignation calls

A defiant Willie O'Dea today declared himself a victim as he continued to face down calls for his resignation over allegations he perjured himself in a sworn statement.

The embattled Defence Minister said falsely linking Limerick councillor Maurice Quinlivan to a brothel was a "stupid, silly mistake" and one he wished he could take back.

And he said he never considered quitting the Cabinet when he swore in an affidavit that he wrongly denied the slur on the Sinn Fein politician.

"I am not a perjurer. Neither I nor any members of my family ever committed perjury," Mr O'Dea said.

"I never did that. I'm a victim here as well. Everybody is a victim, I've been accused of something I didn't do which is perjury, so from that point of view I am the victim."

The controversy dominated Dail business for a second day despite Mr O'Dea comfortably winning a no confidence motion yesterday by 80 votes to 69.

Opposition parties lead by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny rounded on the Limerick TD forcing Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk to suspend proceedings.

The Green Party's parliamentary party met to discuss the controversy after its finance spokesman Senator Dan Boyle said he had no confidence in the Defence Minister.

Senator Boyle told followers on his public Twitter account that the party was bounced into supporting the motion.

Mr O'Dea said he had never considered stepping down from office, adding his position was in the hands of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

He said if the controversy had damaged the Government he was terribly sorry.

"I didn't contemplate resigning because the suggestion was I was caught out by a secret tape which was produced, and that I had committed perjury," he said.

Mr O'Dea said the false information about Mr Quinlivan's alleged involvement in a brothel was given to him by a garda during an informal, off-the record "chit-chat".

"The moment I discovered it was incorrect I apologised for it. I paid a substantial sum of money by way of damages," Mr O'Dea told RTE Radio.

"I reiterate my apology today. If I could take it back now I would take it back.

"It was a stupid, silly mistake to pass on untested information like that and I fully acknowledge my culpability in that regard."

In a statement to the Dail on Tuesday, the Limerick-based TD outlined why he denied he told a local journalist Mr Quinlivan had links to a property in the city used as a brothel.

Mr O'Dea made the slur during the run-up to the local elections in March last year in an interview with Limerick Chronicle and Limerick Leader journalist Mike Dwane.

He denied in a sworn affidavit to the High Court ever making the claim but after a transcript and recording of the interview was produced, he corrected his statement and paid undisclosed libel damages.

Mr O'Dea said he knew the interview was being taped.

"I knew it was in possession of a journalist and in possession of a newspaper," Mr O'Dea said.

"If I had recollected properly what I said, I wouldn't have sworn an affidavit to the country knowing the whole thing was on tape with a journalist. That simply wouldn't have been a rational thing to do."

But Fine Gael said Mr O'Dea was unfit for public office and accused him of using confidential garda information for private gain.

Alan Shatter said: "What Minister O'Dea admitted yesterday is that he willingly and publicly discussed, for his own electoral gain, confidential information furnished to him by a member of An Garda Siochana.

"Such conduct is entirely unacceptable by any minister in any Government."

Mr Shatter said members of the gardai or Defence Forces could not now be assured information provided by them to the Minister would remain confidential.

Press Association

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