Micheál Martin regrets resignation, but says leadership secure
Fianna Fáil leader says Power’s resignation related to refusal to allow her run as sole candidate
Averil Power said Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is “a leader without any followers”. Photograph: Collins
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said he regrets the decision by Senator Averil Power to resign from the party, but he rejected her criticisms and said her action did not undermine his leadership.
But Mr Martin strongly rejected her criticisms and said he had received many phone calls of support from party TDs since Ms Power made her announcement, and his position was not under threat.
He said he believed Ms Power’s decision to resign was entirely related to the party’s decision to run more than one candidate in her Dublin Bay North constituency.
“I am disappointed and I regret the decision of Averil Power to resign from the Fianna Fail parliamentary party and I am in no doubt that it has all to do with politics of Dublin Bay North.
“She made it very clear to me about two months that she wanted to be the only candidate and that, essentially, we should tell Seán Haughey that he should not put his name before the convention.
“She made it clear that we orchestrate the convention so that there would only be one candidate and that would be her, and that neither Seán Haughey nor Deirdre Heney would run there.”
Mr Martin said that he informed Ms Power that there was no way that Fianna Fáil HQ would sideline the grassroots organisation in the constituency in this way after introducing one member one vote.
“We also did our own research and our own opinion polls which would obviously have to inform our decision and those opinion polls did not justify standing Averil on her own in the constituency.”
Mr Martin said that Ms Power may have since got a boost from her work in the marriage equality referendum, but she was “nowhere near taking a seat” if she ran as a lone Fianna Fáil candidate.
Ms Power was also critical of Mr Martin and Fianna Fail’s performance in the marriage referendum, but Mr Martin also rejected these comments and said she was being unfair to the party.
He said that he received an email recently from Ms Power outlining her criticisms about the party’s involvement in the marriage equality referendum and he discussed the issue with her.
“Averil’s criticisms coincided remarkably with the decision of Seán Haughey to indicate publicly he wanted to be a Dáil candidate because I got an email two days later from her on marriage equality.”
“I think she has understated and underestimated the impact of Fianna Fáil as a political party in supporting marriage equality and every TD in the party facilitated its passage through the house. There was no negativity in the house, bar one who resigned the party whip, Senator Jim Walsh, the rest of the parliamentary party did not oppose this in any shape or form.
“She gives no credit that the leadership of the party took a decision, consulted with the organisation at the Ard Fheis, and decided to support marriage equality two years before the Fine Gael party did.”
He said that he had sought to go on RTÉ to participate in national debates on marriage equality, but he was denied access because of the broadcaster’s insistence on absolute balance on debates.
Mr Martin acknowledged that some of the party’s TDs were less enthusiastic than others in campaigning for a Yes vote, but the same was true of Fine Gael and some rural Labour TDs.
Mr Martin denied he reprimanded Ms Power over her call, made in 2011, for the expulsion of former leader Bertie Ahern and he said he had simply urged her to liaise with the party over such calls.
Ms Power said she was “repeatedly rebuffed” by own party and instanced how Mr Martin waited a year before he recommended the expulsion of Mr Ahern as she had urged 12 months earlier.
“She was not reprimanded by me . . . that sort of petty element in her statements disappoints me – if my recollection is correct that had to do with the MacGill Summer School in Glenties. Every now and again, Averil would make public statements that would guarantee to get her a good public profile and all I would say to Averil at the time was ‘let’s co-ordinate what you are doing’.
“The Mahon tribunal was on at the time and we had to await the outcome of that and we didn’t wait a year, we just waited until the Mahon tribunal for an outcome so she is being disingenuous there.”
Mr Martin said he also regretted the vindictive tone of Ms Power’s statement about his leadership of Fianna Fáil, but he said he felt it reflected more on her than on him as a leader.
“I don’t accept the truth of that (that he was a leader without any followers) – I am elected by the party and was just elected at the Ard Fheis just over a month ago,” said Mr Martin. “I am surprised at the personally vindictive tone of Averil. I’m not hurt, but it just shows a side to her character that is disappointing – she might learn it doesn’t pay to be personally vindictive in politics.”
He also rejected her suggestions that Fianna Fáil was out of touch with ordinary people and pointed to the success of the party at the weekend in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election.
“In terms of the parliamentary party’s budgetary submission, Averil was enthusiastic about the fact that we took a stance on homelessness, the fact that we put services before tax cuts. Our submissions were very much on the side of ordinary people and it’s simply not true to say that we are out of touch with ordinary people and proven by the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election result.”
Asked if he had lost an ally on the liberal wing of the party with Ms Power’s resignation, Mr Martin said that they were many people within Fianna Fáil with liberal views on many issues.
“I think Averil was on her own wing, if you want to be straight up about it – she had strong liberal views, but there are others who have liberal views too, but may not have shouted them as loudly.”
Mr Martin said that Ms Power had not shown him the courtesy of informing him of her decision and the first he knew of her decision to resign was when he learned of it through the media.
Asked if there was any way that Ms Power would be welcomed back into Fianna Fáil in a scenario perhaps where she won a Dáil seat as an independent, Mr Martin said the issue did not arise. “This is one senator who has made a decision – she has made her decision – I am not even contemplating that (welcoming her back into Fianna Fáil). She has made her decision.”