18/02/2010

Cowen On The Ropes Over O'Dea

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has accused Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny of launching a no-confidence motion in Willie O'Dea to prove he was up to being party chief.

In a scathing attack, Mr Cowen questioned the timing of the debate just a week after journalist George Lee's dramatic exit from politics, suggesting it was a diversion.

Embattled Defence Minister Mr O'Dea, who faces allegations he perjured himself in a sworn statement, survived a Dáil vote by 80 votes to 69 following a heated debate between the Government and opposition.

The Taoiseach asked why the matter was not raised last month, while Mr O'Dea used his speech to poke fun at Mr Kenny.

"Is the leader of Fine Gael trying to divert attention from his crisis by foisting a drama on to somebody else?

"Is he tabling motions of no confidence because he is afraid that if he doesn’t another party will and the leader of Fine Gael will be seen as once again being behind the curve?" he said.

Mr Cowen said the debate was a waste of valuable hours at a time when there were more pressing issues to be dealt with.

Mr O'Dea was forced to make a statement to the Dáil on Tuesday night over allegations he perjured himself in a sworn statement.

The Limerick-based TD outlined why he denied in an affidavit that he told a local journalist a Sinn Fein councillor owned a property in the city used as a brothel.

Mr O'Dea said his recollection of what he said in the interview was mistaken, and that he corrected the error when he realised it.

Mr Cowen said he supported his minister and that the controversy had no bearing on his responsibilities in Government.

He also said perjury did not apply and it was despicable to suggest it did.

Earlier Eamon Ryan gave a chronological account of the events surrounding the controversy and then said the Dail should be debating the issue of the need to create jobs.

But Labour leader Eamon Gilmore later hit out at the Communications Minister and questioned whether there would be anything the Greens would not do to stay in office.

(BMcC/GK)

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