"Who is this Big Prick?",this was the genteel interogative allegedly directed by our states Minister of Defence,Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea, when asked by a pair of aggrieved Shannon airport workers why, he, an elected TD for Limerick had failed to contribute to the Dáil debate on the Airports future.The newly privatised Aer Lingus decision to axe its route to London Heathrow, and shift this connection to Belfast, with staff on lower wages, has created a huge amount of anger in the Shannon Region. The regions Airport workers and also the business community have reacted with dismay and astonishment to a decision which makes connectivity between Shannon and the vital business hub of Heathrow a thing of the past, despite the fact that the route was making a substantial profit.This decision,it is feared, may cost thousands of jobs in the Mid-West region.
John Fahey, chief executive of the Meet Limerick/Shannon conferencing promotion group, and Geraldine Morrissey, spokeswoman for Aer Lingus workers at the airport,would like an apology from the Minister over the remarks they say he made to them in a Pub in Limerick last Saturday night.The row happened after Mr O’Dea called to South’s pub in Limerick last Saturday night with Tánaiste Brian Cowen. Mr Fahey,a prominent hotelier in the mid-west, was there with his wife and Ms Morrissey.
“Mr O’Dea was there with the Tánaiste,” said Mr Fahey. “Then they both left together. As they did, a number of people said, ‘What about Shannon, what about Shannon?’” A short time later, Mr O’Dea returned.Mr Fahey said when Mr O’Dea approached their group,Ms Morrissey challenged him over not being present in the Dáil for a vote on the Shannon issue.“She asked him why he did not take part in the Dáil debate,”. Willie supposedly responded by saying that he was the Minister for Defence and Mr Fahey, who sounded like a most credible witness whilst speaking on Today FM's"The Last Word" said, ‘Well you did not defend the interests of the West of Ireland very well’. At this comment Willie O'Dea, who is somewhat vertically challenged, apparently turned around and said, ‘Who is this big prick?’, bizarrely informing the 6 foot John Fahey that "I would like to hit you". To which John Fahey replied "if you were a little bigger I might let you", a neat riposte if ever there was one. Apparently the Minister, according to Fahey, then turned to Geraldine Morrissey and informed her,(no doubt concerned to put her mind at ease on the matter), ‘I don’t give a fuck about you’.I really don't think that this is what Mandelson and Blair had in mind when they talked about the need for politicians to get into a 'conversation' with the electorate.
Interestingly this particular 'conversation' ocurred in South's bar in Limerick City. Is it possible that anything connected with that most Limerick of surnames, (Sabhat in Irish), South, is destined to get Willie O'Dea into difficulties? Is there a 'South' hoo-doo haunting Willie??
I recall back in the end of 2006 he landed himself in another embarrassing mess over pulling out abruptly from a promotional event for a book commemorating the life of legendary 1950's Limerick IRA volunteer Sean South..(er..yes of Garryowen). The Minister, who is also from Limerick, withdrew from the event claiming he did not realise who the book was about when he agreed to do the launch. The biography by Des Fogerty is entitled 'Sean South of Garryowen....Mr O’Dea rejected claims by the family that he came under pressure from his own officials to pull out of the event.Sean South, whose death inspired a famous rebel ballad, was shot dead along with another IRA man, Fergal O’Hanlon, during an attack on the RUC barracks in Brookeborough, in January 1957.Mr O’Dea said: “I thought the book I was to launch was about somebody else.”However, Owen South, a well-known photographer and nephew of Sean South, challenged Willie's version of events.“The publisher got a call from the Department of Defence saying the Minister would not be attending the launch at Peter Clohessy’s bar next Saturday night,” he said.“It was the department and not the Minister who contacted us to say he would not be turning up. For the Minister to say he did not know at the outset who the book was about is rubbish. He knew all along the book was about Sean South. Obviously there was pressure from his own department or somewhere not to turn up.”Mr O’Dea said that when he accepted the invitation to launch the book, he did not realise it was about Sean South.“I did not realise it was about Sean South until the other day and I did not think it would be appropriate for the Minister for Defence to launch a book about Sean South...It was my own decision. To be honest I assumed the book was about somebody else as I did a book launch some time ago about the city fishermen"(what that is a reference to is beyond me). “I only realised the book was on Sean South when my diary was being checked and somebody got in touch with my office. I don’t think it appropriate for me to be launching a book on Sean South.
Willie O'Dea is the Minister of Defence in Bertie Ahern's Cabinet, the same Taoiseach who would have us believe he is having difficulties 'recalling' the provenance of the odd thirty grand in sterling, in his recent evidence about his finances at the Mahon Tribunal hearings.Is'nt it clear now, clearer perhaps than ever it has been, that these people who govern this nation, are,in the immortal words of East Ender's Phil Mitchell,simply 'Aving a laugh' ?