Sargent and O’Dea resign

Ministers forced to resign amid personal scandals

In the last month, the longevity of this coalition government has been seriously jeopardised with both Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea and Minister for State in the Department of Agriculture Trevor Sargent, being forced to resign amid personal scandals.

Last summer, Minister O’Dea made a sworn statement in connection with a High Court case taken by Sinn Féin local election candidate Maurice Quinlivan.

While he accepted making comments about Mr Quinlivan which were published in a local newspaper, he denied making other, unpublished, comments which transpired in the court case.

It was later revealed that he had in fact made the comments – Mr O’Dea said that he had forgotten making them, and apologised. Having first been given a vote of confidence by the government, it was a result of pressure from the Green party which swayed Taoiseach Brian Cowen to give the Fianna Fáil Minister his marching orders.

In his resignation speech, former Minister O’Dea said he felt privileged to serve in government and tried to explain his behaviour by saying, “I say things which I don’t really mean sometimes in the heat of battle”.

Former Green party leader, Trevor Sargent was forced to resign after attempting to interfere with the judicial process on behalf of one of his constituents, by writing a letter to the garda involved. The revelations that cost him his job were greeted with incredulity across Leinster House, as Mr Sargent is regarded as having strong principles.

With such instability distracting from its duties, coupled with growing suspicions between the two parties, whether or not this coalition is still tenable or if it is simply treading water until the next election, must be questioned.

Liberties Councillor Clare Byrne (Fine Gael) can foresee a “big shift in the front bench”. On the question of whether the government handled the recent ministerial misdemeanours correctly, Councillor Byrne said she understood the Taoiseach’s reluctance to ask for resignations. “It’s all to do with votes, if Willie O’Dea and Trevor Sargent step down then the government are two votes down in the Dáil,” said Ms Byrne.

On the matter of Willie O’Dea’s dismissal Councillor Bryne said, “He did a stupid thing and he should be properly reprimanded.” Calling for further action to be taken, Ms Byrne continued, “Losing their ministry is not sufficient punishment as they are then still on the backbench and potentially getting paid for a further two years.” These sentiments are echoed by many business owners and students in the area.
Enda Kenny’s chances of capitalizing on this government volatility were seriously damaged last month by the resignation of popular party member George Lee. Councillor Byrne said she was disappointed to see him go. “It’s a thankless job and you have to give it time, but it was his decision and we have to respect that,” said the Liberties Councillor.

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