Willie O'Dea appeared on RTE's Late Late Show on September 10. The following day, September 11, was a major day in Irish maritime history - the second anniversary of the sinking of the national sail training vessel, Asgard. O'Dea did not have a difficult time on the Late Late Show which did not pursue an important aspect of his career – his decision to abandon the national sail training programme.
Why is it that the Dublin-based national media have such little awareness of the maritime sphere? How could the researchers on the Late Late Show, promoted as a top RTE programme, ignore Mr.O'Dea's actions and challenge his misleading public statements on this issue?
Ryan Tubridy interviews Willie O'Dea on the Late Late Show
He is on public record as Minister in pledging the replacement of Asgard. But while he said one thing, he did another, though attempting to pass the responsibility sideways to the Asgard committee, which, of course, he had appointed and which failed to challenge him. Should Ministers not deliver on what they publicly commit themselves to? Willie O'Dea handed over the compensation money for the sinking of the national sail training vessel to the Department of Finance, a callous abandonment of the maritime traditions of this nation. Over 12,000 young people had been given sail training courses aboard Asgard during its 25 years of operation.
Now Ireland does not have a national sail training vessel, nor a national sail training programme. For a maritime nation, this is disgraceful.
Next year the international Tall Ships Race returns to Ireland. It will be hosted again in Waterford, which will have the honour of being the port to start the event. This will also be a great honour for Ireland.
But remember that when the Tall Ships Race was last in Waterford, in 2005, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern never visited the event. That, in my view, was an insult to the occasion and I said so at the time, which did not go down well with the Government. But it is not my concern to be popular with a Government which has dealt with the sail training programme in an appalling way.
Nor am I concerned to be popular with my former employers, RTE. The Late Late Show failed to pursue O'Dea on a crucial maritime issue, which should have been its public service duty on a date and an occasion particularly relevant to the marine sector.
• This article is reprinted by permission of the Cork Evening Echo in which Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie