Guest blog by Shane Brennan, a Plaid Cymru member in Wrecsam, a native of Dublin and a keen follower of Irish politics both sides of the border.
Last week the Irish Minister of Defence, Willie O’Dea, hard man of the largest party in the governing coalition, Fianna Fail, resigned. Today Trevor Sargeant, the Junior Minister for Food and Horticulture and former leader of the Green party, the junior party in the coalition, also resigned.
On the surface these events appear to be completely separate and unfortunate occurences for an extremly unpopular Government. However the talk in Dublin is that Fianna Fail blame the Greens for the resignation of O’Dea, and that the controversy that emerged this afternoon ending in Sargeant’s resignation was payback for the Greens behaviour last week.
Willie O’Dea‘s troubles began last year when speaking to a journalist from The Limerick Leader. He stated that local Sinn Fein candidate, Nessan Quinlivan, was involved in the running of a brothel. Naturally enough, Mr Quinlivan objected and pursued a defamation case against Mr O’Dea. Mr O‘Dea, who happens to be a barrister, swore an affadavit that he had not made any such allegations about Mr Quinlivan. There was however one slight problem, the conversation between the bold Willie and the journalist had been recorded. Mr Quinlivan was duly awarded damges in Decemeber 2009.
Questions began to emerge about Mr O’Dea’s behaviour in this case in the Oireachtas at the beginning of the month. Mr O’Dea felt he had done nothing wrong despite accusations of perjury being made in the chambers of the Dail and the Seanad. A vote of confidence in the minister was called and the Green party members supported O’Dea. However things began to unravel when Green party chairman Senator Dan Boyle tweeted that he had no confidence in Willie O’Dea. The following day the Dail had to be suspended due to the rowdy behaviour of members. O’Dea then went on to RTE radio’s lunchtime news programme and gave a robust and ill judged defence of himself in which he stated that he had been a victim in the whole affair. Mr O’Dea resigned later that day.
All was well again in Dodge until about 11 am today, when an article appeared in The Evening Herald newspaper stating that in 2007 the aforementioned Mr Sargeant had written on behalf of a constituent who was under Garda investigation using Department of Agriculture stationery. At 5 pm today Mr Sargeant resigned his ministerial post.
Now, one resignation is unfortuante but two is careless. What is emerging tonight is a question as to why a letter that An Garda Siochana recieved two years ago has emerged less than a week after Willie O’Dea had to suffer the indignity of resignation; a resignation that many in Fianna Fail felt had been forced by Dan Boyles ‘treachorous tweet’. In particular, the Minister for Justice speaking on RTE issued a strong denial that he was responsible for any leak, and then continued to attack the Green party for listening to their membership.
If it emerges that Fianna Fail is the source of the leak it is inevitable that the Greens will have to walk and force an election that would undoubtedly result in Fianna Fails worst electoral showing in the party’s history.