Suggestions that Fianna Fáil were behind a dirty tricks campaign to oust the junior Green Party minister were “reprehensible”, claimed Mr Martin. “He is a very decent and honourable man and a very good minister for food.”
Mr Martin was sorry to see the junior minister go.
Speaking from Egypt, Mr Martin said he found the suggestion his party had leaked details about a letter that Mr Sargent had sent to gardaí to stall a prosecution “offensive”. “I think it’s going too far. And the degree to which some media commentators literally parrot a dirty tricks approach by the opposition is to me revealing in itself and unacceptable. [It is] clearly designed to destabilise the Government further. It is a reprehensible action by the opposition. I’m personally offended by it. I would never condone anything like that and it’s just pure wrong.”
In the letter, written in June 2008, Mr Sargent urged gardaí to stall a prosecution against a constituent who had got into a row with a neighbour.
The constituent, Dominic McGowan, was subsequently fined €500 for his part in the fight, while the neighbour, Stephen Mulvany, was jailed for four months.
Green leader John Gormley has said he found it “very interesting” that the damaging letter written by Mr Sargent two years ago had surfaced just days after the Greens forced the departure of Willie O’Dea from office.
Mr Martin said there was no evidence to back the claim Fianna Fáil were behind the damaging leak, backing arguments by party leader Brian Cowen that the opposition suggestion was “beneath contempt”.
“It’s unbelievable to be frank,” added Mr Martin. “Opposition politicians were whispering this around the corridors of Leinster House within minutes of the Evening Herald being published.”