Willie O'Dea

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Willie O'Dea
TD
Willie O'Dea 2009.jpg
O'Dea in 2009
Teachta Dála
Incumbent
Assumed office
February 2011
Constituency Limerick City
In office
February 1982 – February 2011
Constituency Limerick East
Minister for Defence
In office
29 September 2004 – 18 February 2010
Preceded by Michael Smith
Succeeded by Brian Cowen (acting)
Personal details
Born (1952-11-01) 1 November 1952 (age 61)
Limerick, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fianna Fáil
Spouse(s) Geraldine Kennedy
Alma mater University College Dublin
Website www.willieodea.ie

Willie O'Dea (born 1 November 1952) is an Irish Fianna Fáil politician and a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Limerick City constituency.[1] He served as the Minister for Defence from September 2004 until 18 February 2010, when he resigned from his post due to controversy over a defamation case.[2]

Early and private life[edit]

O'Dea was born in Limerick and raised in Kilteely, County Limerick. He was educated at the Patrician Brothers College in Ballyfin, County Laois, and University College Dublin where he studied law.[3] He qualified as a barrister at King's Inns, Dublin. He has an accountancy qualification from the Institute of Certified Accountants. He worked as both a barrister and as an accountant before embarking on a career in politics. He also spent some time lecturing in the Law faculty in University College Dublin and in the University of Limerick.[4]

O'Dea is married to Geraldine Kennedy.[5] He writes regularly for the Sunday Independent and occasionally for other national newspapers.[6]

Early political career[edit]

O'Dea first held political office as a Fianna Fáil member of Limerick County Council. He served on that authority until 1992. He first stood for election to Dáil Éireann at the 1981 general election but was unsuccessful. He was elected to the Dáil on his second attempt at the February 1982 general election for the Limerick East constituency.[7] Like his former constituency colleague Desmond O'Malley, O'Dea was opposed to Charles Haughey's leadership throughout the 1980s, becoming a member of the so-called Gang of 22. Following the founding of the Progressive Democrats by Desmond O'Malley in 1985, O'Dea became the only Fianna Fáil TD in the five-seat Limerick East constituency.

Ministerial career[edit]

In 1992 Albert Reynolds succeeded Charles Haughey as Fianna Fáil leader and following a widespread cabinet reshuffle O'Dea, became a Minister of State at the Department of Justice. Following the collapse of the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party coalition government in 1994 O'Dea found himself on the opposition benches. After the 1997 general election with the help of the Progressive Democrats, Fianna Fáil were back in government and O'Dea was appointed a Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science. Here he had responsibility for Adult Education and the School Transport Scheme. He oversaw reform and increased investment in adult education and back to school initiatives, starting with the launch of Green Paper in November 1998.[8]

Following the 2002 general election O'Dea became Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform with special responsibility for Equality Issues. His main function during this period was the passage of the Disabilities Bill, which the Government had been forced to withdraw in early 2002 in the teeth of opposition from the disability sector.[9] After a number of changes, including a form of the independent assessment of needs demanded by the disability organisations,[10] O'Dea reintroduced the Bill in September 2004 along with an implementation package.[11]

Following a cabinet reshuffle in September 2004 O'Dea became Minister for Defence. His tenure commenced as the army deafness compensation issue was starting to come to an end.

In November 2005 O'Dea encountered some controversy when he was photographed during a media event at the Curragh Camp pointing an automatic pistol at a photographer. The photo appeared on the front page of The Irish Times the following day. O'Dea apologised saying that it was not his intention to glamorise gun crime.[12]

During his term as Minister for Defence, O'Dea prioritised two particular issues: the recruitment of more women to the Defence Forces[13] and the promotion of more serving non-commissioned members to the commissioned ranks, often called "promotion from the ranks".[14]

He also presided over Ireland's second tour in the Lebanon in late 2006 as part of UNIFIL 2[15] and participation in the EUFOR mission to Chad.[16][17]

O'Dea and Limerick[edit]

O'Dea is highly identified with his native Limerick. Three main issues have dominated his recent pronouncements on Limerick: Shannon Airport, Dell and gangland crime.

In August 2007 he broke ranks with Cabinet colleagues to speak out against Aer Lingus's decision to cease London Heathrow Airport flights from Shannon.[18]

In December 2008 O'Dea and Tánaiste, Mary Coughlan flew to Dell's Corporate HQ in Texas in a last-ditch and ultimately futile attempt to stop the closure of Dell's manufacturing plant in Raheen, Limerick. Manufacturing was moved to Poland with the loss of about two thirds of the jobs at Dell's Limerick operation.[19]

The slaying of two wholly innocent men in Limerick within months of each other: Shane Geoghegan and Roy Collins increased pressure on O'Dea locally, as a member of the Cabinet, to secure changes to the law and greater resources to tackle Limerick city's gangland crime.[20]

On 5 February 2010, O'Dea announced that the Government would not deliver its commitments to fund the Limerick Regeneration project. The €1.7bn funds (between 2009 and 2018) promised by the Government will no longer be delivered.[21]

Defamation case and resignation[edit]

On 10 March 2009, O'Dea alleged in an interview with the Limerick Leader that a brothel had been operating in a house owned by Nessan Quinlivan, brother of Maurice Quinlivan, a Sinn Féin candidate in Limerick for the upcoming June 2009 local elections.[22] On 14 April 2009, he signed an affidavit to the courts, denying making such allegations.[23] Quinlivan sought an injunction under the Prevention of Electoral Abuses Act 1923: under section 11 of the act it is a criminal offence to make or publish a false statement of fact in relation to an election candidate.[24] In December 2009, O'Dea settled the case out of court and apologised to Quinlivan for making "false and defamatory statements" during the interview, after a tape recording of the interview emerged. O'Dea also paid an undisclosed sum in damages to Quinlivan. A settlement agreement was read out in the High Court.[25][26][27]

On 16 February 2010, Fine Gael announced it intended to table a motion of no confidence in O'Dea, however the government responded with a motion of confidence. The government won the confidence motion in O'Dea in the Dáil on 17 February 2010. The Green Party, coalition partners in government with O'Dea's party, voted with Fianna Fáil on the motion. However, Green Party Chairman Senator Dan Boyle wrote on Twitter, that he has "no confidence" in O'Dea and declaring him to be "compromised".[28]

On 18 February 2010, O'Dea resigned as Minister for Defence.[29] In his resignation letter, he said that he had come to the conclusion: "that my continuing in office would distract from the important and vital work of the Government".[2] O'Dea said he decided to resign when it became clear that the Green Party would no longer support the Government if he was to stay in office.[30]

Reappointment to front bench[edit]

O'Dea was appointed to Micheál Martin's frontbench as spokesperson for Communications as part of the Fianna Fáil campaign for the 2011 general election.[31]

He was re-elected to the newly formed Limerick City constituency, polling 16% of the vote, down from the 39% he polled four years previously. He was the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation from April 2011 to July 2012. In July 2012, he was appointed as party spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Willie O'Dea". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Willie O'Dea resigns as Minister for Defence". The Irish Times. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  3. ^ A contemporary at UCD was later Attorney General and Cabinet Minister Michael McDowell.
  4. ^ As a lecturer, he taught a future cabinet colleague and Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
  5. ^ Not the former editor of The Irish Times.
  6. ^ "Willie O'Dea". Department of Defence. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  7. ^ "Willie O'Dea". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  8. ^ "Launch of Green Paper on Adult Education "Adult Education in an Era of Lifelong Learning"". Department of Education and Science. 24 November 1998. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  9. ^ "2002 Disability Bill (Ireland)". eAccess. 30 October 2002. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  10. ^ "National Disability Strategy". Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. 21 September 2004. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  11. ^ "Government publishes Disability Bill". RTÉ News. 21 September 2004. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  12. ^ "No offence meant by gun photos: O'Dea". RTÉ News. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  13. ^ Recruit Women "O'Dea Prioritises Greater recruitment of women and Greater opportunities for promotion from within the ranks". Department of Defence. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "Soldiers will not be halted in their tracks by a 'glass ceiling'". Irish Independent. 5 October 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  15. ^ "Ireland set to commit troops to UN peace force in Lebanon". Irish Independent. 13 August 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  16. ^ "In the Line of Fire". Sunday Tribune. 27 January 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  17. ^ "Irish troops due in Chad next month". RTÉ News. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  18. ^ "O'Leary to respond to Aer Lingus plan". RTÉ News. 13 August 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  19. ^ "Dell job losses: "A massive blow to the region"". Limerick Leader. 22 December 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  20. ^ "Anti gang crime package promised". RTÉ News. 10 May 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  21. ^ "State cannot deliver €1.7bn for Limerick regeneration – O'Dea". Irish Times. 6 February 2010. 
  22. ^ "Transcript of Willie O'Dea interview". The Irish Times. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  23. ^ McCarthy, Justine (14 February 2010). "O'Dea in Dáil battle over ‘lie’". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  24. ^ "Journalist 'accused' of fabrication in O'Dea's affidavit". The Irish Times. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  25. ^ "O'Dea apologises for defamatory statements". RTÉ News. 21 December 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  26. ^ "Mr O'Dea's false statement". The Irish Times. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  27. ^ Justine McCarthy (7 February 2010). "In all honesty, O'Dea's perjury is a sad sign of our lying times". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  28. ^ "Boyle's 'no confidence' in Minister Willie O'Dea". The Irish Times. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  29. ^ "Willie O'Dea resigns as Minister for Defence". RTÉ News. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  30. ^ "O'Dea says Greens demanded resignation". RTÉ News. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  31. ^ "Mary Hanafin named new FF Deputy Leader". RTÉ News. 31 January 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 

External links[edit]

Oireachtas
Preceded by
Peadar Clohessy
(Fianna Fáil)
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Limerick East
1982–2011
Constituency abolished
New constituency Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Limerick City
2011–present
Incumbent
Political offices
New office Minister of State
(with special responsibility for Adult Education, Youth Affairs and School Transport)

1997–2002
Succeeded by
Síle de Valera
Preceded by
Mary Wallace
Minister of State for Equality
2002–2004
Succeeded by
Frank Fahey
Preceded by
Michael Smith
Minister for Defence
2004–2010
Succeeded by
Brian Cowen
(acting)