Frances Fitzgerald expresses sympathy with Averil Power

Minister praises senator for her ‘straight talking’ approach to politics in wake of resignation

Senator Averil Power gets a hug after her resignation from the Fianna Fail aprty on the plinth outside Leinster House. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Senator Averil Power gets a hug after her resignation from the Fianna Fail aprty on the plinth outside Leinster House. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said she felt sympathetic towards former Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power and praised her “constructive” approach to politics.

Ms Fitzgerald was reacting to Ms Power’s departure from Fianna Fáil on Monday, when the Senator criticised her party’s attitude to the same-sex marriage referendum.

The Fine Gael Minister was speaking ahead of a gender balance conference jointly hosted by the employers’ body Ibec and the Department of Justice in Dublin on Wednesday.

“It was very emotional for Averil. She clearly felt very strongly about the situation. You couldn’t overestimate how challenging that situation is, trying to forge a way ahead in politics,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“It’s challenging for women who come in who don’t have a political background. I found it myself. It’s a tough business. Of course I had sympathy and understood.

“I found her very straight-talking. I found her to engage in a kind of politics that wasn’t adversarial for the sake of being adversarial. I found her very constructive in her approach, for example in the Seanad with the Children and Family Relationships Bill.”

Turning to the topic of the conference, Ms Fitzgerald said the low number of women TDs was bad for politics.

“We’ve a long way to go in certain areas of Irish life in terms of women in decision making,” she said.

“Politics is a prime example where you really have such a low percentage of women in the Dáil, and it matters because such serious decisions are taken in the political sphere.”

She said the conference would also examine the barriers to women’s progress in business.

Ms Fitzgerald said organisations needed to examine their internal cultures and make efforts to support women in order to build a “critical mass” of female employees.

“I think critical mass is very important, 30 to 40 per cent,” she said.