Saturday 22 October 2016

Power told Martin of FF 'lack of involvement' concerns two weeks before vote

Published 31/05/2015 | 02:30

JUMPED SHIP: Former FF Senator Averil Power
JUMPED SHIP: Former FF Senator Averil Power

Former Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power wrote to Micheal Martin two weeks before the Marriage Equality referendum to outline her concerns about the "lack of involvement" by Fianna Fail public representatives with the campaign for a Yes vote.

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"If this referendum is lost, much of the blame will rest with Fianna Fail," she said in an email to Mr Martin on May 11.

However, senior Fianna Fail sources yesterday said Mr Martin had replied that he, personally, had just canvassed face-to-face for a Yes vote and was optimistic that the referendum would be carried.

In her email, Ms Power also told Mr Martin that Yes Equality groups from all over the country had told her that they had contacted Fianna Fail representatives and had "not even received the courtesy of a response".

But yesterday Fianna Fail sources said the secretaries general of the main political parties, including Sean Dorgan of Fianna Fail, had met on a weekly basis with the Yes Equality campaign, at which it was agreed the campaign group would lead from the front with the support of the parties.

Fianna Fail sources were also anxious to deny media reports that Ms Power had not received one of the party's passes to attend the official referendum declaration at Dublin Castle last Saturday.

Earlier last week she had received two media passes for her campaign team and on Saturday was given one of four official passes at Dublin Castle. Ms Power did not attend the official declaration.

Her May 11 email, however, points to a consistency in Ms Power's view that Fianna Fail had not done enough to support the Yes campaign, a view strongly rejected by Fianna Fail.

She wrote to Mr Martin:

"As I said when we met at the start of the campaign, and highlighted to the parliamentary party as a whole a few weeks ago, this referendum will be won or lost on the doors. The TV debates, with their requirement for 50:50 balance are largely leaving people confused about the issue.

"It is essential that Yes campaigners call door to door to explain the case for a Yes vote and allay any concerns people may have about the proposal.

"As a Republican party, Fianna Fail should be leading on this issue. You set out very well the reasons why that should be the case at the party's national launch in the Dean Hotel. However, the reality on the ground is the exact opposite and Fianna Fail is widely perceived as the party doing the least to help win the campaign.

"The vast majority of our TDs, Senators and councillors are hiding and refusing to engage with the Yes campaign. Many are actively telling people they are voting No, contrary to the party's official position on the referendum. Others have told me they are in favour of marriage equality but are afraid of canvassing for it in case they lose votes, or fail to get selected as Fianna Fail candidates, as a result. This is totally unacceptable and is symptomatic of a wider lack of courage and commitment within the party.

"There are a few notable exceptions, such as Councillors Kate Feeney, Jim O'Callaghan and Nicholas O'Keeffe, but they are very much in the minority."

She added: "I appreciate many members of the parliamentary party, yourself included, are working hard to get Bobby Aylward elected in Carlow-Kilkenny. I also understand how important this by-election is to the party. However, that is not an excuse for not engaging in any meaningful way with the referendum. A national launch and a few public meetings is not a campaign.

"As you know I feel very strongly about marriage equality as a human rights issue. I have publicly supported for it for many years and was delighted when it was endorsed as Fianna Fail policy at our 2012 Ard Fheis. Fianna Fail is particularly well-placed to help shift middle-ground opinion on a social issue like this and indeed it is incumbent on us to do so."

Sunday Independent

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