Lise Hand: All is no longer rosy in Micheál Martin’s garden
Published 26/05/2015 | 13:11
On Saturday afternoon in a sunny Dublin Castle, Micheál Martin was the picture of relaxation as he stood and chatted to the media.
On the giant screen behind him, the results of the referendum were turning the map of Ireland green. But more crucially for the Fianna Fáil leader, it was looking increasingly likely that Bobby Aylward was a sure thing to win the Carlow-Kilkenny byelection, the first for the party in 19 years.
During the count, all sorts of politicians materialised on the big stage to take a bow and take in the carnival atmosphere in the yard – the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, Justice Minister Frances Fitzpatrick, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, all of whom had conscientiously put their elbows to the campaign wheel.
And Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power appeared on the stage, too. She deserved to be there, given that she had canvassed tirelessly on the issue, knocking on door and arguing the Yes case over the airwaves, even as many members of her own parliamentary party had remained conspicuously absent from the campaign. She had been invited up by Amnesty chief Colm O’Gorman, one of the most prominent members of the Yes side. Averil chatted to government TDs in the courtyard, including Health Minister Leo Varadkar who acknowledged her hard work on the canvass. She had very little conversation with her own party leader.
Fittingly, this being an equality referendum, politicians arriving at Dublin Castle had to enter through the same gate as ordinary mortals, and by mid-afternoon there was a scrum outside the entrance to the Upper Yard. At one stage, Fine Gael’s campaign director Simon Coveney who was inside the Castle, had to rescue his colleague Jerry Buttimer from the melee outside. As the Cork TD squeezed through the gate along with a few dozen waiting members of the public, a somewhat crumpled Alan Shatter and his wife scurried in also.
Tickets for the official declaration were in limited supply – Fianna Fáil had been given four, but when Averil went looking for a pass, she was told none was available for her, despite being the most high-profile campaigner on her party’s behalf. On the afternoon, Micheál was accompanied into the Castle by the party’s campaign director Niall Collins, party general secretary Sean Dorgan and the leader’s chef-de-cabinet, Pat McPartland.
Averil eventually got into the Castle on a media pass which had been allocated to one of her staff, and then the Yes Equality people looked after her when they spotted her in the crowd below the stage. But even as a yard full of people celebrated solidarity in the sunshine, the senator had already reached the realisation that a parting of the ways between her and Fianna Fáil was imminent. And all of a sudden, all was no longer rosy in Micheál Martin’s garden.