herald

Thursday 24 July 2014

Aoife Finneran: One treacherous tweet and Willie goes without a fight

WHAT a way to go. In the end, the final nail in Willie O'Dea's ministerial coffin was hammered in by a 140-character Twitter message. And by the time news of his resignation was revealed late last night, Senator Dan Boyle's social networking message was already being dubbed 'the treacherous tweet'.

Despite his years of experience in the defence ministry, Willie decided against deploying the weapons and chose instead to bow out without a fight.

Shortly before 9 o'clock, the inevitable finally happened and the Government confirmed that Willie's resignation had been accepted. A stony-faced Government press secretary scuttled briefly out the gates of Government Buildings, distributed the damning statement to a waiting media pack and retired to the inner sanctum before anyone could call for an appearance by the Taoiseach.

Instead, all that was offered was a rather tight-lipped John Gormley, who refused to admit that the Greens might finally have stood up to their coalition partners by issuing an ultimatum to Brian Cowen.

Willie's statement was brief, but defiant. There would be no admissions of guilt, and certainly no backing down on his claim that he had sworn a High Court affidavit in good faith. Instead, he chose the moral defence, insisting that he didn't want to distract from the work of his colleagues.

Despite the embarrassment caused to Green Party deputies, they suffered through the pain and voted to save Willie's hide on Wednesday evening. Then busy-fingered Dan Boyle intervened with a damning tweet and the saga erupted once more.

From the minute proceedings got under way in the chambers yesterday morning, it was clear that Kenny, Gilmore et al were looking for blood.

The Fine Gael leader got the ball rolling with a pompous statement: those who smirk behind their constitutional seals and harbour a perjurer at the Cabinet table should be ashamed of themselves. As the mud-slinging continued, a panicked Seamus Kirk was forced to suspend the sitting in order to allow overwrought deputies to regain their equilibrium.

On the airwaves, the audio clip of O'Dea's conversation with a Limerick Leader journalist was playing on heavy rotation. It made for gripping listening, revealing to thecountry the dangerous, malicious and false gossip that the minister had spread about a rival candidate.

Not only that, but we couldn't fail to hear the tone of unbridled delight in his voice as he described how two ladies in the night had been found in a house which he falsely claimed had been owned by Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan.

There was one brief respite to the troubles of Disaster O'Dea when the Government floundered on a vote on Revised Estimates on the Public Service. Chief whip Pat Carey was seen frantically punching out text messages to absent deputies as the vote ended up tied at 63.

It was left to the Ceann Comhairle to save the day with his deciding vote, the first time such an event has occurred for almost two decades.

The Tanaiste, designated housekeeper for the day, looked positively aghast at the development. And to make matters worse, Fine Gael's Alan Shatter couldnt resist asking her why so many of the Deputies who should have been sitting behind her have so little confidence in this Government's economic policy that they deserted the House during a crucial vote?

After all that embarrassment, one would have thought the Government benches had suffered enough turmoil for one day. But instead, Willie made it a day to remember by decommissioning the weapons.

Nonetheless, the country need not fear, as the Ministry of Defence will be in safe hands in the coming weeks. Yes, Biffo himself will be installed in the department until a suitable replacement is appointed. The country is truly in safe hands.

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