Seeing how party things work
Averil Power pictured here in 2002 when she was President of Trinity Students Union. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.
The long blond hair turned heads. The slit in the skirt raised eyebrows. But it was Averil Power's youth, energy and enthusiasm that made her really stand out from the Fianna Fail crowd.
The 20-year-old student of politics who attended her first Fianna Fail Ardfheis at the weekend ended up moving, shaking and schmoozing along with the very best of them.
"That is the great thing about it," she said on Saturday, her eyes scanning the RDS conference hall. "Where else would you be able to bend the ear of a Minister and have him give you a response?".
Averil, a Dubliner attending the ardfheis as a delegate of the Trinity College cumann, lost no such opportunities. She became interested in politics while studying history at school. "I suppose it was the thought that you can change things . . . I also think that there should be more women involved," she said.
She got up to speak at a workshop for the Department of Education and Science on Friday night, and made several suggestions to the Minister, Mr Martin, about ways to prevent the high rate of absenteeism in schools and encourage more people to avail of third-level education.
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The next morning saw her canvassing for the election of Katherine Byrne to the committee of 15 on the national executive.
"I'm enjoying it," said Averil, pushing another leaflet into yet another FF hand. "I think this is fun."
The canvassing completed, a workshop on finance didn't prove half the fun, and Averil declared it "a bit boring". But there was standing room only at the workshop on health next door.
So it was back to finance, where one disgruntled delegate concluded her short speech by complaining that not enough time had been given to the floor.
Averil agreed. "There should be much more participation . . . People have so many ideas, and this is when they can share these with the people who count in the party . . . I could talk about policies all night," she said.
In the workshop on organisation there were some mutinous remarks about not enough value being placed on the younger members of the party. There are exceptions of course, as Averil, who was whisked away to be introduced to some people by Mary Hanafin TD, was quickly finding out.
Elsewhere, even younger FFers were trying to make sense of it all. James Morton (16), from Crumlin in Dublin South Central, surveyed the scene and summarised the 63rd FF Ardfheis: "Interesting, a good buzz . . . vast amounts of booze".
His friend, Daithi O'Regan (16) from Walkinstown in Dublin, agreed that as young people, and Ogra Fianna Fail members, their voice wasn't regarded in the movement. "You have to be old, grey and wrinkly before they will listen to you," said James.
Later Averil Power extricated herself from a particularly old, grey and wrinkly political contact to offer her verdict. "The best thing about it is that you get to see how things work," she said. The worst thing was the showband-style entertainment for the social on Friday. "But you can't have everything," she said.