The loss of Power for Fianna Fáil
A force that was helping to rebrand party as ‘liberal, iconoclastic, young, and women-friendly’ leaves abruptly
When a roomful of mostly middle-aged men “scoffed” at the suggestion by the young woman that they should go out an do a bit of canvassing on marriage equality they certainly sealed her decision to part company. A cocktail of ageism and sexism. And they ensured that the parting would be as rancorous. Senator Averil Power pulled no punches – Fianna Fáil was simply not fit for government, she said. Later she accused the party leader of lying. Et tu, Brute!
The weekend should have been all about the successful revival of Fianna Fáil and a vindication of the leadership of Micheál Martin by a rare byelection victory and the strong association of the party with the successful Yes campaign not least through the efforts of one of its star performers, Power, no less . . .
Instead, those same events became invested with their opposite meaning and it became all about the revival of Old Fianna Fáil and all its historic baggage: the re-election of former TD Bobby Aylward, a blast of the old days, the departure of “star” Senator, Power, and the disparaging of the party’s real referendum efforts. And the party leader diminished too by an unfortunate and ungenerous rubbishing of his erstwhile party colleague, one whom he had himself promoted, with the less than convincing suggestion that she was just embittered by thwarted ambition.
Mr Martin’s problem is that the bright, energetic and media-savvy Power, whether by design or accident, had recently become emblematic, largely the emblem, of the attempted rebranding of Fianna Fáil, of its break with the past, of its hoped-for future – liberal, iconoclastic, young, women-friendly . . . That she was only one of two women members of the party in the Oireachtas hurts all the more. That rebranding needs rebooting.
Ms Power has shown, not least in her wholehearted engagement with the Yes campaign, that she has an important contribution still to make to politics and it is to be hoped that she will yet find a way to find her place in that arena.