Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Personal Explanation by Minister
I thank the Acting Chairman for his indulgence in accommodating me. I wish to give the House a brief explanation in response to the unfounded allegations made against me in recent days. On 21 December, a defamation action taken against me by a Sinn Féin councillor in Limerick city, Maurice Quinlivan, was mutually agreed and settled in the High Court. The case followed from remarks I had made in an interview with a journalist from a local newspaper, the Limerick Chronicle.
There has been much ill informed, unfounded and mischievous comment about this matter in recent days. What has appeared has been comment masquerading as fact. I am giving this personal explanation to the Dáil to place the facts on the record. As part of the settlement agreed and put before the High Court on 21 December a statement was read in court which contained the following paragraph: "It is not suggested by Mr Quinlivan that Mr O'Dea acted other than innocently in making such denial and he accepts that there was no intention to mislead on the part of Mr O'Dea."
I have openly and fully acknowledged that my recollection of some of what I said in the interview as described in my original affidavit was mistaken. I corrected the mistake when I realised it. I admitted the mistake and apologised for it.
I agreed a settlement in which, as I have already outlined, the other party fully accepted that there was no intention to mislead on my part.
The matter was a personal one between me and a Sinn Féin representative in Limerick. It did not pertain to my responsibilities as a Minister or to Government policies in any shape, way or form. It was born out of heated political exchanges between me and the Sinn Féin candidate in the run up to the local elections in Limerick city. It was dealt with in open court more than two months ago and reported widely in the newspapers at the time. Both parties to the dispute agreed that the matter was resolved and that there are no outstanding issues. As far as the two parties and the courts are concerned the matter has been closed since 21 December.
A Fine Gael Member of the Seanad has sought to raise this closed matter on the Order of Business in Seanad Éireann on a number of occasions over the past several weeks. He made unfounded accusations against me on 2 February, 3 February, 11 February and, I understand, today. He has asserted, directly and indirectly, that I only corrected my statement when I had been found out and that I have admitted that I lied on oath. These two unfounded claims have been used as the basis for much of the media commentary since then.
As I have not lied under oath, I most certainly have not admitted to lying under oath. I made a mistake. The other party to the action acknowledged and fully accepted this in the settlement agreed in court.
I did not have a transcript of the interview when I made my statement but as I had seen the report of it in the newspaper, I felt sure a transcript of that tape recording would vindicate my recollection. I was wrong. I have never denied saying what was reported in the newspaper. I knew I had made the remarks reported in the paper but I did not recollect going beyond them. My mistake relates specifically to remarks that were not published in the paper, which I honestly did not recall making. When I later saw a transcript of the interview I saw that I had, contrary to my recollection, gone further in what I had said and what had been quoted in the newspaper.
I took the initiative. I went to my solicitor and immediately corrected my affidavit. I was not forced or pressed to do this. I did so of my own volition because I became aware that my original affidavit was wrong. I openly acknowledged and apologised for my mistake and agreed a settlement in which the other party accepted that there was no intention to mislead.
What has happened in this instance was that the evidence I gave to the court was mistaken. Evidence and testimony is regularly corrected in courts without allegations and assertions of lying and perjury being levelled. People in all walks of life have been obliged to correct testimony they gave in written and oral statements. There is nothing unusual or pernicious in this.
As has been pointed out frequently in recent days, I have legal qualifications and am supposed to know about these matters or, at least, I hope I do. Is it even the slightest bit reasonable to imagine that I would have deliberately or maliciously made a false statement-----
-----about an interview I gave, knowing that the newspaper and journalist had a tape recording of the interview?
The settlement we mutually agreed was brought before the High Court on 21 December and was read out in full before the open court. The judge was satisfied that the settlement laid before the court resolved the matter and that as there were no outstanding issues, the proceedings were closed. To attempt to re-open a matter that has been resolved and finalised before the High Court for political advantage while professing respect for the integrity of the courts is hypocritical to put it at its mildest.
I respect the Minister's right to give a personal explanation. A series of questions arise from it, however, and I give formal notice of my intention to move a motion of no confidence in him.