One last round on the radio for dirty fighter O'Dea

Sat, Feb 20, 2010, 00:00

RADIO REVIEW:IT WAS ONE of the best opening lines of any broadcast interview in recent times. On Thursday’s News At One(RTÉ Radio One, weekdays) Sean O’Rourke asked an already bruised and battered Willie O’Dea, “You really are one hell of a dirty fighter aren’t you?” It wasn’t meant as a compliment.

Still, O’Dea had one more round to go, during which O’Rourke delivered a series of punches, if not one knock-out blow. Referring to damages he paid in a recent defamation case and swearing a false affidavit in a High Court case, O’Dea said, “I say things I don’t really mean, sometimes in the heat of battle . . . If I could take it back, I would take it back.”

“Are you really so insecure that, when somebody criticises the way you carry out your duties and the way you run your constituency office using six civil servants and using department headed paper, are you really so insecure that you have to respond in this way?” O’Rourke asked. I guess that’s what they call a rhetorical question.

O’Dea said he was sorry for using Ministerial notepaper for run-of-the-mill constituency letters. “I’ve apologised,” he said sheepishly. “I’ve apologised again. I don’t know what else I can do.” That left the ring wide open. O’Rourke suggested that he resign.

But the scrappy former minister of defence hadn’t given up yet. He played his last trump card and made the political personal. “I didn’t commit perjury,” he said. “It’s been very difficult for me and very difficult for my family.” O’Rourke didn’t bite: “And so it should be, considering what you said.”

After that interview, the countdown began. On Friday, Green Party leader John Gormley said he had informed An Taoiseach Brian Cowen that O’Dea’s position had become untenable and Government Chief Whip Pat Carey told Friday’s Morning Ireland(RTÉ Radio One, weekdays) that O’Dea mentioning to O’Rourke Garda involvement in his false affidavit had led to him resigning of his own volition. O’Dea resigned hours later and, like many politicians who have enjoyed their time in the spotlight, it was just in time for the Nine O’Clock News.

The survivors of child abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy have plenty of fight left in them yet, but they bring a dignity and honour to theirs. Before the two-day meeting between Irish bishops and Pope Benedict XVI, expectations were improbably high. Fr Tony Flannery, Redemptorist Priest, told Tuesday’s Today(RTÉ Radio One, weekdays), “I was looking at the images last night on the television and I just thought they were giving such a depressing message, the way they were all dressed up in their regalia and with the kissing of the ring.” Pat Kenny said it reminded him of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

There was no formal apology and no Papal invitation to the survivors of child abuse. The Pope did say that child abuse by clergy was a “heinous crime”. It is difficult not to be glib, but we knew that already.

Campaigner Michael O’Brien said, “The Taoiseach never called them in once, never told them that they were responsible.” He added, “We’re the only people who can sit down in front of the Pope and say this is what happened in Ireland. This is the place you called Holy Ireland, which you were making a mockery of down through the years.”

On Wednesday’s Morning Ireland(RTÉ Radio One, weekdays) Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns said, “The Holy Father has heard many stories of Irish victims. I can also say that they have been believed.” Again, there was never any question about that.

On Arts Tonight(RTÉ Radio One, Mondays) Vincent Woods spoke to Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn about his artistic installation A Different Kettle of Fish Altogetherat 18 Ormond Quay in Dublin. It has one month left to run.

The exhibition incorporates pews filled with copies of the Ryan and Murphy Reports. “They are stacked almost like bibles,” Woods observed. They face a white padded cell. The walls are covered in pictures, letters and fingerprints chronicling the years “James X” spent in and out of the industrial school system.

“I am neither a survivor nor a victim,” Flynn said. “I am a person who has the experience and the blessing of the gift of creativity . . . You enter into this building as a kind of pilgrim. You’re going on an emotional journey.” He said these children were never shown any consideration or care. “We empathise and sympathise with their hurt through our own hurt,” Flynn said. “The feeling of betrayal is the feeling of repair.”