Page last updated at 22:17 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Brothel remark Irish defence minister O'Dea resigns

Willie O'Dea
Willie O'Dea said his failure to recall the remarks was an honest mistake

Irish defence minister Willie O'Dea has resigned over wrongly denying he linked a Sinn Fein councillor to a brothel.

Mr O'Dea gave false information to a journalist last year about Limerick councillor Maurice Quinlivan.

He told a journalist: "I'd like to ask Mr Quinlivan, is the brothel still closed?"

Mr O'Dea made a sworn statement denying he had said this but later withdrew it. In December, he agreed at Dublin's High Court to pay damages to Mr Quinlivan.

He denies claims by political rivals that he committed perjury.

In his resignation letter, Mr O'Dea said he had come to the conclusion that his continuing in office would "distract from the important and vital work of the government".

Willie O'Dea's comments and conduct during yesterday's debate and in subsequent media appearances were inappropriate
John Gormley
Green Party leader

Taoiseach Brian Cowen thanked him for his hard work and commitment.

Mr O'Dea's resignation comes a day after he survived a motion of no confidence in the Irish parliament.

During the debate, Mr O'Dea told the Dail he had made a "genuine and honest mistake" in failing to remember he had made the remarks.

The Fianna Fail representative later saw a transcript of the interview in which he had gone further than what had been quoted in the newspaper last April.

"Having seen the transcript, I took the initiative - I went to my solicitor and immediately corrected my affidavit," he said.

"I was not forced or pressed to do this. I did so of my own volition as I then knew that my original affidavit was wrong."

Tip off

Mr O'Dea claimed he had been tipped off about the brothel by a police officer.

John Gormley, leader of the Green Party junior coalition government partner, criticised Mr O'Dea's attempt to defend the comments in parliament and in the media.

"At the very conclusion of yesterday's Dail debate, Mr O'Dea said his original actions in the matter were based on information given to him by An Garda Siochana (the police)," he said.

"We were very concerned by this behaviour by a member of government. We have also taken the view that Willie O'Dea's comments and conduct during yesterday's debate and in subsequent media appearances were inappropriate.

There can hardly be a more serious issue for a Minister of Defence than having admitted swearing an affidavit that contained a falsehood
Eamon Gilmore
Labour Party leader

"All these factors have led us to conclude that Willie O'Dea could not continue as a member of this government."

Leader of the opposition Fine Gael party Enda Kenny said the credibility of the coalition cabinet was "in tatters".

"Despite knowing the full facts, the Taoiseach and his Fianna Fail and Green ministers queued up just yesterday to vehemently support Deputy O'Dea, to assert that he had done nothing wrong other than a simple human mistake, and to vote complete confidence in him."

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said there were two reasons why Mr O'Dea had to resign.

"The first was that he made an absolutely scurrilous and unfounded allegation about a political opponent in his constituency, an allegation that he was subsequently forced to admit was totally and utterly without foundation.

"The second was that he swore an affidavit that contained a blatant untruth.

"There can hardly be a more serious issue for a Minister of Defence than having admitted swearing an affidavit that contained a falsehood."

Mr Cowen said he would assume control of the Department of Defence until a replacement minister is appointed.

The new minister is likely to be appointed next week.

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