'Leo congratulated me while my FF party colleagues stayed silent' - Averil Power
Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30
As she soaked in the carnival-like atmosphere in Dublin Castle on Saturday night, Averil Power felt a man's hand squeeze her right shoulder.
It was Leo Varadkar, the Health Minister and fellow Yes campaigner, expressing his congratulations for her efforts during the referendum campaign.
Mr Varadkar, like most TDs advocating a Yes vote, knew Ms Power had tirelessly spent night and day knocking on doors while most of her Fianna Fáil parliamentary party colleagues remained on the periphery. "He thanked me for my work on the campaign and he said he knew it had been difficult for me," Ms Power explained.
But while Ms Power was met with words of congratulations from politicians within Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party, there was a stony silence from Fianna Fáil's all-male team of TDs.
She admitted feeling a sense of resentment as she watched party leader Micheál Martin and justice spokesperson Niall Collins celebrate the result from the declaration centre - a room that Ms Power did not have access to. Neither politician, she insisted, got stuck into a campaign that the party was in favour of, on paper at least.
It was among the myriad of reasons that prompted Ms Power to walk away from the party she once loved so dear.
And in a wide-ranging interview with the Irish Independent, the Dublin Bay North senator claimed her ex-colleagues "have the knives out" for her since her decision to quit the party fold. These include people who she once called friends, she said, adding that the personal attacks will put other women off entering politics.
"I think the nastiness of it is not only hurtful on a personal level - of course it's going to put others off. People who I thought were friends, to be out attacking me ... I guess the way they see it is that my resignation looks bad for the party and maybe they think it will cost them support in their constituency," Ms Power said.
"They're rallying around the cause for that and putting the knives out for me with their own political interests. I think that's sad," she added.
Ms Power is in the process of packing up her belongings and moving office to a different wing of Leinster House.
She admitted she is "nervous" at the prospect of bumping into her former Fianna Fáil colleagues in the corridors of the Oireachtas.
But Ms Power is adamant that her decision has nothing to do with the upcoming Dublin Bay North selection convention, despite claims to the contrary by party leader Micheál Martin.
She insisted that other issues raised by her as part of the decision to quit, such as the party's "lack of policies, vision and teamwork", have been ignored by the Fianna Fáil leader in his many media interviews.
She says any doubts she had about her decision were eradicated as she listened to Mr Martin's interview on RTÉ's 'News at One' on Monday afternoon.
"Thirty seconds into Micheál Martin's interview on the 'News at One', I knew I had done the right thing because he was so disingenuous and unfair, I thought, very personal and quite vicious in that interview.
"I was surprised, to be honest, I hadn't expected that. I knew the party would try and spin it in its favour."
Ms Power said she would make a decision about the general election in the coming weeks but she ruled out joining any other party.
Underlying her decision to quit Fianna Fáil was that she was in a party that she no longer recognised.
"I've been uncomfortable for some time, been unhappy with how things were going, just a general lack of vision on policies.
"I thought for a long time I could change that and I worked very hard to do that over the last four years but the referendum was just the final straw because it taught me that not only had things not changed, but that they weren't going to."
She said that Fianna Fáil was a party in crisis. "When I got home from doing my last TV interview yesterday, I had 700 emails, hundreds of texts and tweets from party members, from former Oireachtas members and current councillors of the party telling me they share my view."