Miriam Lord: It’s no surprise that Averil Power has resigned from Fianna Fáil
There were tears on the plinth at Leinster House after the FF lads had their laugh in Kilkenny
Micheál Martin breezed into Dublin Castle on Saturday afternoon in high spirits. And why not? The Fianna Fáil leader had backed the right horse in the referendum and Bobby Aylward in Carlow-Kilkenny was set to reverse the party’s embarrassing record of six byelection losses on the trot.
His entourage comprised Limerick TD and national campaign director Niall Collins; party general secretary Seán Dorgan; Martin’s chef-de-cabinet, Deirdre Gillane; and his trusted spindoctor Pat McParland.
Tickets to attend the official declaration inside the castle were thin on the ground. Fianna Fáil was given four. And Averil Power didn’t get one.
Perhaps Micheál didn’t want to look her in the eye while he basked in the reflected glory of a decisive Yes vote which his Senator had worked so tirelessly to help bring about.
Perhaps he was embarrassed, thinking of that recent meeting in Kilkenny when he allegedly stood idly by as some of his TDs and Senators guffawed at the very suggestion that they might actually go out in public and do a bit of canvassing in support of same-sex marriage. All they wanted to do was canvass for Bobby Aylward.
Odd leafletCould they not even wear a badge as they handed out their byelection leaflets, and maybe throw out the odd referendum leaflet while they were at it, asked Averil?
The lads were highly amused. Sure they couldn’t be doing that. There’s a general election coming up, and you wouldn’t want to be upsetting anyone on the doorsteps by talking about the gays, and the way they might look at you.
We were curious about Power’s absence from much of Saturday’s celebrations. Some members of the Yes Equality group sought us out to say she had no ticket. They were angry about it. (Funnily enough, we knew this already. Late last week she canvassed neighbours of this column who asked her for tickets to Dublin Castle, only to be told that she didn’t actually have one herself).
Still, Micheál was delighted with the result.
“It’s an historic day for Ireland. I think that the outcome of this vote will reflect very well on Ireland as a society that is committed to equality and justice for all,” he declared in one of his many interviews.
And he paid tribute to those involved in managing the Yes campaign for what he termed “a very successful, very well thought out and strategic campaign”.
Power, meanwhile, finally secured a pass from the party press office. It didn’t allow her into the inner sanctum for the declaration. She wore it around her neck on a lanyard. The name on it was Doreen.
So does that matter? Well, it does. Because during the campaign, and in the run-up to it, Power was a one-woman show in the dismal Fianna Fáil marriage equality push.
Sadly, it seems the cute-hoor strain of old-school Fianna Fáil politics asserted itself when the potentially damaging issue of same-sex marriage became a live issue.
But to be fair, the party had a vital byelection to win. Veteran politician Bobby, a former TD and very popular candidate, had to be brought over the line. Averil’s pleas for a bit of help on the referendum front fell on deaf ears.
Two months ago she printed up leaflets, then left the template with party headquarters which agreed to print them for politicians around the country.
According to Power, not one TD or Senator availed of the offer. A number of councillors did.
It was no surprise when she resigned from Fianna Fáil, delivering a damning indictment of the party in the process yesterday. She said the party lacks “courage, commitment and conviction” and Micheál Martin is a leader with no followers, of a party which lacks identity and cohesion.
At midday Power gave a press conference on the Leinster House plinth. She was nervous and clearly emotional as she delivered her statement, holding it in a trembling hand but reading words which packed a strong punch.
Afterwards, Power, who now joins the packed ranks of the Independents, broke down in tears and was comforted by two supporters.
Her erstwhile leader was quick off the blocks to defend himself and his party.
Micheál the Moderniser promptly threw his young, female, progressive Senator – his one and only – under the bus. Something he has proved incapable of doing with any of the lads causing him no end of grief since he took over.
He went in with studs flying. It’s all about local politics and Averil is trying to stand unopposed in Dublin Bay North, he said, while the likes of Seán Haughey deserved a run too. “This is at the heart of it.”
Gross distortionAs for the reports about the carry-on of the laughing FF lads at that meeting in Kilkenny – “a gross distortion.” So presenter Áine Lawlor tried to find out what their reaction really had been like. Micheál dodged the question, preferring to talk about how he supported Power for a seat in the Seanad even though it annoyed a lot of county councillors. “I can’t believe she is saying this thing.”
Tellingly, Lawlor mentioned that he chose to fight his corner on condition that Power wasn’t there to challenge him live on air. “You said you wouldn’t mix it with her.”
Meanwhile, Irish Times reporter Sarah Bardon rang around some of the lads to find out if there was substance to the account of the Kilkenny meeting. One, who wished to remain anonymous (obviously), squirmed, “well, I wouldn’t say that they laughed at her, as such. They kind of scoffed at it.”
As for the departed Power, she had this to say about her colleagues who conveniently mislay the courage of their convictions in case it might compromise their seats, “I don’t agree with what Jim Walsh says [a FF Senator who resigned the party over marriage equality] but I’ve more respect for him than I have for the rest of them.”