Was Willie O’Dea’s behaviour “anything other than innocent”?
If we take everything that Willie O’Dea has said about what happened later as gospel, his original smear of Maurice Quinlivan was still a disgrace, and its clear suggestion and innuendo that he was connected with a brothel.
His quote: “I suppose I am going a bit too far when I say this but I’d like to ask Mr Quinlivan is the brothel still closed?”
When Quinlivan sought an injunction to restrain O’Dea from repeating the defamatory remarks, O’Dea denied “most categorically and emphatically” that he was referring to Quinlivan. As a point of fact, Quinlivan’s brother, Nessan Quinlivan, owned the apartment in question. Nessan Quinlivan was completely unaware that his tenants, Brazlilian nationals, were operating a brothel from the premises. It was clear, even from the straightest reading of the above statement, that O’Dea was deliberately throwing dirt (and nasty dirt) at Maurice Quinlivan, trying to make him guilty by association with his brother.
It must also be remembered that O’Dea was responding to a quite legitimate political criticism made by Mr Quinlivan of the cost of the six civil servants employed by the Minister to do work on constituency matters. O’Dea had a legitimate defence to that but instead chose to try to blacken the good name of his opponent.
In his affidavit, O’Dea described as a “serious allegation” Quinlivan’s asserting that O’Dea was “obviously going around town trying to slander me… and involved in every kind of dirty trick”.
O’Dea claimed that it was unfounded and that Quinlivan did not have a “shred of evidence”.
When the recordings were produced, it was clear that Quinlivan did indeed have a shred of evidence and way more than that. O’Dea was indeed involved in dirty tricks, suggesting to the journalist that Quinlivan was associated with the brothel.
The recordings revealed that in his interview with journlalist Mike Dwane, O’Dea went futher than the quoted remark and suggested to Dwane that Quinlivan owned the apartment along with his brother.
“Do you know the brothel they found in his name and in his brother’s name down in Clancy Strand?… Did you not hear that? You better check with your sources. There was a house owned byhim that was rented out and they found two ladies of the night operating in there in the last couple of weeks.”
O’Dea said he could not remember making the remarks about Quinlavin’s interest in the brothel until the tape was produced, thus jogging his memory. He admitted the affidavit from April was false. He claimed that his mistake was innocent.
However, an important point here is that it was a separate case to the injunction case the previous April. There was also a different judge.
The parties arrived at a settlement on the steps of the Court. The text of the setttlement included the line about the false affidavit: “It is not suggested by Mr Quinlivan that Mr O’Dea acted other than innocently in making such denial.”
It was a settlement. The Government and the Greens have leaned heavily on the above quote to suggest that it was a High Court approval. Yes it was, but the judge made no adjudication on the affidavit. He was told that the parties had settled, received the text, and approved it. He would not have examined the truth or otherwise of the affidavit unless one of the parties brought it up. Of course, they didn’t. Maurice Quinlivan had been awarded costs and damages, which remain undisclosed.
Even if we accept Willie O’Dea could not remember making such a serious allegation, the original smear was awful. Downright awful. What a nasty thing to say. What dirty tricks.
As expected Government won confidence vote by 80 to 69 with all the Greens supporting the Government. Eamon Ryan made a very weak speech where he just recited the chronology of events. He looked very uncomfortable, squirmed in his seat. The words ‘liar’ and ‘perjury’ were thrown around like confetti by the opposition. Joan Burton had the most effective moment when she read the conversation betwee the journalist Mike Dwane and Willie O’Dea into the record, as if she were reading a film script.
Willie didn’t apologise. He said he made a mistake. Hadn’t realised he had gone so far. He also admitted that the gardai had told the allegations to him. This point was picked up by Brian Hayes. He had never stated this in public before, why not? he askedO’Dea in the Dail. Because they were wrong, admittedO’Dea. But this showed a very clear recollection of an allegation he previously said he had forgotten about.
What was most disgraceful about O’Dea’s defence wasn’t his attempts to divert attention by making irrelevant claims about Fine Gael from way in the past, and about Arthur Morgan and Liam Adams. It wasn’t his dishonest spin on the outcome of the libel case, and his presentation of a settlement between both sides as some kind of Court ruling or decision. The judge made no evaluation on the affidavit, good, bad or indifferent.
What was most disgraceful is that over two days in the Dáil, he has not apologised to Quinlivan for the slur he made on his good name. In fact, today he compounded the smear by trying to justify his defamatory remark. He said owned by Quinlivan’s brother, Nessan Quinlivan, whom O’Dea described for no reason as a Brixton escapee. Thus he again tried to make MauriceQuinlivan guilty by association.