Wednesday 26 October 2016

Daniel McConnell: Averil Power's departure is a huge embarrassment for Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Published 25/05/2015 | 13:03

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Senator Averil Power, who has quit the party
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Senator Averil Power, who has quit the party

The decision by Senator Averil Power to resign from Fianna Fáil is a significant blow to the standing of her former party leader.

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The timing of her departure to become an Independent senator, so soon after the party's first by election win in 19 years, robs any chance of a honeymoon for Micheal Martin.

 Given he has endured rather than enjoyed the last four years as leader, such successes as Bobby Aylward's election to the Dail have been few and far between, and should have set the party up with some confidence going into the General Election.

 Ms Power's decision to resign kills any momentum the party hoped to build up. But her scathing criticisms of Mr Martin and the party are deeply wounding, particularly because they have the ring of truth about them. She said she thought "Fianna Fáil would learn from its mistakes and work hard to rebuild the trust of the Irish people by showing it had changed for the better."

 She said she has been repeatedly rebuffed by her own party.

 She said she was reprimanded by Martin when she called publicly for Bertie Ahern to be expelled from Fianna Fáil in 2011.

 She said the strategy she was asked to develop on improving female participation in the party has largely been "ignored".

 Ms Power went on to say she has become increasingly uncomfortable in a parliamentary party that is out of touch with the needs and concerns of ordinary people.

 Her frustrations with her party, the once mighty Fianna Fáil, reached a crescendo over its "cowardly" approach to the same-sex marriage referendum.

 She railed against the vast majority of the party’s public representatives who refused to campaign for it.

 "In fact, I was the only TD or Senator who did a proper canvass for the referendum in their constituency," she said.

 She has revealed that some Fianna Fáil representatives told her that they would be voting Yes but were afraid of campaigning for it in case they would lose votes.

 But as to the state of the party, Ms Power's criticisms are devastating and paint a picture of a party which is not at one with itsself.

 She said Fianna Fáil lacks vision, courage and leadership. "It doesn’t know what it stands for and lacks credible policies on most major issues.  It is afraid of taking clear positions in key debates for fear of losing support," she said.

 But in a direct attack on Mr Martin she said he has become a "leader with no followers" and his front bench are all pulling in different directions.

 Ultimately, she said she resigned because she has lost my faith in Fianna Fáil.

 But some of her critics in the party may say she resigned because of fear of an overly crowded ticket for the General Election with Sean Haughey and Deirdre Heaney looking for the nod.

 Either way, her departure is a huge embarrassment for Micheal Martin as he has regularly singled her out for mention when speaking about the party's future. Just two days ago on radio he name checked her as a sign of the party's recovery in Dublin.

 This is certainly one headache he could have done without, but some will feel it is one of his own making.

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