The morning newstands carried a follow-up story by the Limerick Leader and O'Dea looked worse. The Leader's story caused one Green Party councillor to report O'Dea's perjury to a local garda station for investigation and for the Green coalition partners to agitate their cabinet colleagues. Following O'Dea's searing interview during the News at One, most political analysts were writing O'Dea's political obituary.
Through the evening drivetime radio programmes and the evening news reports, Senator Dan Boyle's tweet (above left) and Facebook comments were cited as primary evidence that the governing coalition did not agree with the fast-tracked motion of confidence held a day before. And by the nine o'clock news, the Minister was gone.
In nearly every other democracy, a cabinet minister who is caught lying under oath is out of a job. In Ireland, cabinet ministers do the same kind of work as well-paid American lobbyists (except the Irish ones are paid a whole lot more). In an earlier job working with classified documents, similar to the intelligence estimates that Minister O'Dea would see on a regular basis, anyone who lied on official correspondence was removed from duty.
Politicians learn to lie as a regular job skill. Politicians who twist intelligence estimates, such as those purporting to show long-range nuclear weapons capability under Saddam Hussein, lead countries into long and troubling excursions. It is the job of a democracy to call out those who play loose with integrity.
It is deeply troubling to me to watch Brian Cowen, the leading politician of Ireland, as he casually accepts an erosion of integrity in government. It should come as no surprise to him or to his party to learn that the people he governs do not trust him, his policies, or his promises. You don't have to go to Twitter to see this decline in respect for the instruments of government in Ireland. But Twitter sure makes it easy to see the erosion of government power in Ireland.
Wikipedia entry on Willie O'Dea. Senator Dan Boyle on Twitter.
Comment in Irish Times -- "Mr O'Dea's Resignation" the morning after, 19 Feb 10.