Not even the greens could tolerate the arrogance at the end. The suggestion that Willie O’Dea who had paid a significant sum to settle claims of slander was somehow a victim was one that not even John Gormley could swallow. In the end it was the appalling inability on O’Dea’s part to understand his position that did for him. When I heard on Matt Cooper that an unscheduled meeting of the FF Parliamentary Party was being held at teatime and that FF speakers were unavailable for media interviews the writing was on the wall for Willie.
My initial response is that his demeanour reflects a government out of touch. They thought they’d get away with a truncated vote of confidence, that sneering at the opposition sufficed for debate and high handed references to blue shirts, George Lee and the Northern Bank or low handed ones to Gardaí, brothels and ladies of the night would throw enough dirt in the air to see Willie safe just one more time. Did he actually think for one minute that the general public would feel sympathy for a cabinet minister in the most unpopular government ever who settled a claim against him because he claims he is a victim?
There is a view however that being attacked in a personalised way by your political opponents is a plus at an election. I’ve been called a few things in my time, some in public others in private most of them slanderous. I look at them as a badge of honour. Where does public life go if politicians resort to law to financially compensate themselves against the realities of public life? It's likely that a politician other than Willie O'Dea may well have got away with the slander but would many other politicians have had the neck to suggest what Willie did?
The O’Dea affair has actually camouflaged the reality that the government was almost beaten in a vote on the Finance Act today. Had that happened there would have been a General Election and I’d have spent today canvassing. As usual there is a Wexford connection, Enniscorthy’s FF TD John Browne was AWOL for the vote. If George Lee had still been around then the opposition would have won.
Last month Brendan Howlin told the Labour branch that he thought that an election could happen anytime citing “events”! The Williegate affair arose over 24 hours, the fact that he’s gone will introduce a friction between Greens and FF. As with Brian Lenihan Snr and the famous mature recollection affair of 1990, the shafting hurt and we know what happened to Haughey and subsequently that government. When trust goes in a government it hits the rocks. Cllr Quinlivan’s colleagues at Stormont know this only too well. In time tonight’s dramatic events will be seen to be a turning point between Greens and FF.