UNDER-FIRE Defence Minister Willie O’Dea will be at the mercy of the Dáil next week when TDs will vote on whether they have confidence in him to continue in Cabinet.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said next Tuesday and Wednesday his party will use its speaking time to debate the minister’s admission that a High Court affidavit he signed was wrong.
He put Mr O’Dea on the spot after the minister delivered a five-minute Dáil statement explaining how he wrongly linked Sinn Féin councillor Maurice Quinlivan to a brothel in Limerick city.
Mr O’Dea’s personal explanation to the Dáil last night said his affidavit was not an act of perjury to win a defamation action Mr Quinlivan had taken. “What has happened in this instance was that the evidence I had given to the court was mistaken. Evidence and testimony is regularly corrected in courts without allegations and assertions of lying and perjury being levelled.
“People in all walks of life have been obliged to correct testimony they gave in written and oral statements. There is nothing unusual or pernicious in this,” he said.
Mr O’Dea said Mr Quinlivan had accepted that there had been no intention to mislead. And the minister said this had no impact on his role in Cabinet.
“The matter was a personal one between me and a Sinn Féin representative in Limerick. It did not pertain to my responsibilities as a minister in the Government... It was born out of heated political exchanges between me and the Sinn Féin candidate in the run-up to the local elections in Limerick city,” he said.
Mr O’Dea initially denied he told a journalist at the Limerick Chronicle that the then Sinn Féin candidate was linked to a brothel in the city. A recording of the conversation revealed Mr O’Dea’s denial was wrong.
In the affidavit, Mr O’Dea denied making the remarks only to later apologise and pay damages to the councillor. Mr O’Dea said yesterday: “Firstly, as I have not lied under oath I most certainly have not ‘admitted to lying under oath’. I made a mistake. The other party to the action, as I stated earlier, acknowledged and fully accepted this.
“Secondly, I was not, as asserted, ‘found out’ by the production of a tape recording of my interview.
“I knew the interview was being recorded. I didn’t have a transcript of the interview when I made my statement, but as I had seen the report of it in the newspaper, I felt sure a transcript of that tape recording would vindicate my recollection. I was wrong, it didn’t,” he said.
Mr O’Dea said he fully appreciated the need to be honest before the courts.
“I am a barrister and I have lectured in law. Is it even the slightest bit reasonable to imagine that I would have deliberately or maliciously made a false statement about an interview I gave knowing the newspaper and journalist had a recording of the interview?
“The settlement we mutually agreed was brought before the High Court on December 21 and was read out in full before the open court. The judge was satisfied that the settlement as laid before the court resolved the matter and that there were no outstanding issues and the proceedings were closed,” he said.
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