FF row as key female councillors won't sign letter critical of Averil Power
A row has erupted within Fianna Fáil after a number of prominent female councillors refused to sign a letter condemning the manner in which former senator Averil Power quit the party.
Over 15 Fianna Fáil members, including councillors and the board of the party's youth wing, prepared a joint statement last week as a sign of support for party leader Micheál Martin.
The draft document, seen by the Irish Independent, strongly rebukes Ms Power for her criticism of the party's role in the Marriage Equality referendum.
And it strongly defends the role of party leader Mr Martin, who Ms Power described as a "leader without any followers" after her shock decision to quit Fianna Fáil last week.
"Senator Power has given the impression that Fianna Fáil was found wanting on the Marriage Equality referendum. That is not only untrue, but utterly demeaning of the work done by so many of our elected representatives, parliamentary party members and thousands of members," the letter states.
It adds that Mr Martin "leads a party of vision and ideas" and is a leader with a "clear vision for Ireland".
"We will not be found wanting in driving that vision for our party and our communities," says the letter.
The Irish Independent has learned that the statement was due to be released to members of the media last week but that a split emerged after a number of female councillors refused to sign it.
These include Dún Laoghaire councillors Kate Feeney and Jennifer Cuffe, as well as Westmeath councillor Avril Whitney. All three are among the party's youngest elected representatives. Despite repeated attempts by other members of the party to secure agreement, all three refused to sign the statement.
Ms Whitney last night said she felt the process was "very rushed" and that she did not want to sign the letter because she herself had not become overly involved in campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum.
"I would never put my name to something rashly," she told the Irish Independent.
"I haven't been hugely active in the campaign for personal reasons and I am not the type of person who jumps on bandwagons."
Ms Whitney added that Mr Martin has her "total support" and is doing "Trojan work".
Neither Ms Feeney nor Ms Cuffe responded to calls last night.
Both councillors say they intend to contest the upcoming Dáil selection convention in Dún Laoghaire, which is also being contested by former minister Mary Hanafin and councillor Cormac Devlin.