Kenny refuses to withdraw O'Dea perjury claim

Fri, Feb 19, 2010, 00:00

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny refused to withdraw an allegation of perjury against Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea during heated Dáil exchanges yesterday.

As the Opposition parties challenged Tánaiste Mary Coughlan on Mr O’Dea’s position, Ceann Comhairle Séamus Kirk adjourned the House, amid uproar, for 18 minutes.

Mr Kenny asked Ms Coughlan, who was taking the Order of Business, to say if she believed it was “ethically correct for the Minister for Defence to submit a false affidavit to the High Court for political gain”.

“Standards in the country have dropped because the Government harbours a perjurer at the Cabinet table. I want to offer the Tánaiste the opportunity to answer my question, yes or no.”

Ms Coughlan replied: “I ask the leader of the Opposition to withdraw his charge that the Minister for Defence committed perjury.”

Mr Kenny: “I have no intention of withdrawing the remark.”

Ms Coughlan said the matter relating to Mr O’Dea had been dealt with. An explanation was given to the House through a personal statement and a substantive motion.

Mr Kenny insisted that Ms Coughlan say if she believed Mr O’Dea’s actions were ethically correct.

Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes said the record of the House should be corrected, given that the Garda had denied that Mr O’Dea’s claims about Maurice Quinlivan allegedly running a brothel had come from a member of the force.

“I am asking the Ceann Comhairle to advise me if time will be made available today for the Minister to come to the House again to clarify if a statement of yesterday, where he suggested the information was given to him by a member of the Garda,” Mr Hayes added.

Mr Kirk said that when serious allegations were made against a member of the House, there was a process to go through and he would insist on that being done.

“We are lowering the standards in the chamber; what is happening is disgraceful,” he added.

After some further exchanges, Mr Kirk adjourned proceedings for 18 minutes.

When the House resumed, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste to confirm if Wednesday’s motion of confidence in Mr O’Dea had the full support of the two Government parties.

“The Tánaiste has indicated that, somehow, the Taoiseach made the decision while he was on his feet for the Order of Business,” he added. “Is that the case, or was the decision taken by the Government? Members of one of the Government parties have been saying they were bounced into the motion.”

Ms Coughlan said that it had been a Government motion.

“It was moved by the Taoiseach, on behalf of the Government, and it was supported by all members of the Government parties,” she added.

Earlier, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that question marks existed over what had been heard during Wednesday’s confidence debate.

“Today, I am advised that the Garda has stated that it did not provide the Minister Deputy O’Dea with information, as he claimed in a statement on the floor of the House yesterday,” he added.

Mr Kirk insisted that allegations were being made against a member of the House, and Mr Ó Caoláin should make them by way of a substantive motion.

Mr Ó Caoláin replied: “Let us make no mistake about it, the Tánaiste is a colleague of the Minister for Defence, as is the Ceann Comhairle.

“We are now advised that the Minister allegedly instructed Fianna Fáil canvass teams to repeat his false allegation in the course of the local government election campaign last June.”

Ms Coughlan said that a debate had taken place on the confidence motion. “That motion stands, and there is nothing further to say on the matter.”