ACT Chief Minister invokes priestly alibi

Responding to what he calls the Opposition's campaign of "innuendo and slime", ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says that he was dining with his wife and a local Catholic priest on the night of the 2003 Canberra firestorm - and not with another woman.

The Canberra Times reports that Mr Stanhope revealed the events after Opposition Leader Bill Stefaniak asked him where he had been on the eve of the 2003 firestorm, when emergency services chief Mike Castle was unable to contact him.

Mr Stanhope had previously refused to give precise details, saying only he was at dinner in north Canberra, the Times.

But he said yesterday he spent the evening "with my wife and with a magistrate of the ACT Magistrates Court, and his wife, and forgive me my sins with a Catholic priest, the parish priest of St Matthew's, Page."

The Chief Minister last night named his 17 January 2003 dinner guests as Magistrate Grant Lawler, his wife Mandy and Catholic priest Dermid McDermott.

According to the Canberra Goulburn archdiocese website, Fr McDermott is now the parish priest at St Raphael's Queanbeyan Parish.

Mr Stanhope accused ACT Opposition MP, Mr Brendan Smyth of a four-year campaign of "innuendo, scuttlebutt, doublespeak and plain gossip".

"Of course, it all gets repeated back to me ... everything that Mr Smyth says as he goes around town: the destruction of my reputation and that of my marriage and my wife. It is all out there."

He apologised for naming them, saying the only reason he submitted to "this gross invasion of my privacy is because of the salacious attacks on me, my marriage and my wife".

Stanhope vents fury at Smyth (Canberra Times, 7/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Chief Minister ACT
Brendan Smyth MLA
Canberra Goulburn archdiocese

8 Mar 2007