Fianna Fáil TDs defend Martin in wake of Power resignation

Further acrimony as FF discusses Senator’s shock departure

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power announced she intends to leave the party outside Leinster House this afternoon, saying the party "lacks vision, courage and leadership".

 

Two Fianna Fáil TDs have jumped to the defence of party leader Micheál Martin in the wake of the shock resignation of Senator Averil Power.

Billy Kelleher and Timmy Dooley defended their leader after the resignation on Monday of Ms Power who said Mr Martin had become a “leader without any followers” and that the party was not fit for government.

Mr Dooley said his leader had led from front during the debate on same-sex marriage and said it was “untrue” to say he was ineffective. “If you consider the base for our membership, there is a conservative base,” Mr Dooley said.

“He led from the front. He took a principled position because he believed in it.”

Mr Kelleher said he was disappointed by the announcement of Cork member Ken Curtin to resign from party. Mr Kelleher said the party did what it could and campaigned from “top to bottom”.

The two TDs said there was some within the party who didn’t agree with same-sex marriage but that was reflected across all political parties.

The resignation of Ms Power was expected to be the main talking point at a meeting of Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members on Tuesday.

Mr Martin and Ms Power clashed on Monday after she announced her departure from the party, which she said was not fit for government.

Ms Power labelled Mr Martin a liar after he claimed she tried to orchestrate a selection convention for her own benefit.

He said her claims that she was laughed at by party members when she pleaded with them to canvass in the same sex marriage referendum were a “gross distortion”.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Niall Collins told RTÉ’s Today programme he was disappointed with the manner of Ms Power’s decision to leave the party. He disagreed with her claim that the vast majority of the party’s elected representatives refused to campaign for the same-sex marriage referendum.

He said Ms Power did not raise concerns with him, the party’s campaign director, about the approach Fianna Fáil was taking.

Ms Power told the same programme that she had been “personally attacked” by Fianna Fáil members since she resigned and that she was disappointed by the tone of comments coming from Fianna Fáil.

She said it was untrue to suggest that the party was not aware of her unhappiness. “I’ve raised issues at parliamentary [party meetings]. It was clear I was unhappy.”

Haughey listened

Fianna Fáil councillor for Dublin Bay North Seán Haughey said he did not canvas for a Yes vote in the referendum as wanted to listen to both sides of the debate.

“I felt that I couldn’t canvass with conviction and that I wanted to listen to all the arguments and I listened to the arguments right up to polling day,” he said.

Mr Haughey is expected to contest the general election selection convention Ms Power would have participated in the constituency.

He said he was sorry to see Ms Power leave the party and that he felt she would have been on the Fianna Fáil ticket for the constituency.

Earlier, two Fianna Fáil councillors criticised the “unfortunate and unfair” manner in which Ms Power announced her resignation from the party.

Deirdre Heaney, who will also be contesting the selection convention in Dublin Bay North, told RTÉ radio she wished the Senator had waited a couple of days to allow the party to “enjoy Bobby Aylward’s victory”. The Carlow-Kilkenny TD is due to take his seat at about 3pm.

“ I do think it’s unfortunate and a little bit unfair the manner in which she decided to resign,” Ms Heaney said.

“Today is Bobby Aylward’s day, it’s Micheál Martin’s day and it’s a good day for Fianna Fáil ...it’s a day for Bobby Aylward’s family.”

Local politics

Asked whether local party politics was the real reason behind Ms Power’s departure, Ms Heaney said had the Senator not been successful in being selected at the convention, party headquarters would have added her to the ticket.

“I’m very surprised that Averil decided to resign from the parliamentary party. I’ve been canvassing Fianna Fáil delegates in Dublin Bay North over recent weeks and there was a view that had Averil not been selected at the convention there was a feeling on the ground that party HQ would have added her to the ticket - indeed Averil herself confirmed that yesterday.

Lisa Chambers, vice-president of Fianna Fáil and a councillor in Co Mayo, criticised the manner in which Ms Power departed, saying it was “poor form” and that she had sidelined her colleagues and hurt many in the party.

Ms Chambers said she accepted Ms Power had grievances with the party and she said the difficulties in Dublin Bay North had to have played some role in her decision.

Both councillors rejected Ms Power’s suggestion that the party did not actively campaign for the same sex marriage referendum.

“I strongly disagree with that. In Mayo, Dara Calleary did go out to canvas and he put out a video. There was a campaign in every county. Micháel Martin was very visible in this campaign,” said Ms Chambers.

Party canvassed

Ms Heaney also said Micháel Martin had been very visible and that party members had been out canvassing at Dart stations in her constituency.

Fianna Fáil is due to meet at 12pm and the topic of Ms Power’s resignation is set to be on the agenda.

One TD, who did not want to be named, admitted Ms Power was scoffed at and heckled at the meeting in Co Kilkenny two weeks ago.

The deputy said: “One Senator laughed at her and said to her ‘what do you want us to do? We are canvassing for Bobby Aylward’.”

“She was shouted at by members who told her pretty much told her to shut up. The way she was attacked then and today is outrageous.

“Who the hell would join Fianna Fáil now?”