The Irish Minister for Defence has resigned. Willie O’Dea, possibly one of the most annoying people on the Irish political scene, had to resign after swearing a false affidavit before the High Court. It was definitely the correct thing to do, but was virtually forced out of the cabinet by his party’s coalition partners in the Green Party. He cannot leave government with his head led high. Labour’s Eamonn Gilmore summarises the position clearly:
Mr. O’Dea had to go for two reasons. 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.
Another Irish minister leaves his post in disgrace after his own arrogance and sense of entitlement put him in a compromising position. He wasn’t the first, he won’t be the last. However, what I’m most depressed about is the fallout from this resignation.
Firstly, he’s going to get a €100,000 golden handshake for losing his ministerial post. Let’s look at that again. He told an untruth in the High Court, was then forced out of a position of enormous responsibility and the Irish taxpayer is going to hand him a ton of cash to go away. He should find himself in front of another judge on charges of perjury, not on his way to bring a smile to his bank manager’s face.
Secondly, the discussions as to who should replace him have revealed the truly tribal nature of Irish politics. The Irish Independent has highlighted that Limerick (O’Dea’s constituency) will need to have another representative at the cabinet table, so a local junior minister may get the nod and promotion. Why? Why should any particularly locale feel entitlement to cabinet representation?
Call me naieve, but shouldn’t ability trump home address in appointments to senior roles in government? In any event, perhaps the people of Limerick should think on about the consequences of re-electing O’Dea over the years; perhaps a spell without a Limerick politician in the cabinet is just what they need to consider who they vote for next time.
The line between local and national government is extremely blurred in Ireland, with TDs (members of parliament) acting like glorified County Councillors, rarely acting in the national interest and instead voraciously seeking benefit for their own constituencies, regardless of logic or impact on the rest of the country.
O’Dea’s behaviour in front of the High Court rightly stripped him of his entitlement to sit at the cabinet. He should be followed in quick succession by the other disaster’s in Brian Cowen’s government: his deputy, the disastrous Mary ‘Calamity’ Coughlan and the equally useless Mary Harney at Health. Better still, Cowen should seek a mandate from the country – something he lacks having inherited his position as Taoiseach after Bertie Ahern’s resignation – and call an election.
Considering Ireland’s dire economic situation, rising unemployment and emigration of talent, Brian Cowen should ensure that the very best people are charged with running the country – not jumped up career politicians with only re-election on their minds. Saving that, the Green Party could rescue a token piece of their former credibility by leaving the coalition and forcing a general election. Either way, Ireland needs a new government.