Friday 16 November 2018

Averil puts boot into Bertie as FF fights for political future

Lise Hand

THERE must be something in the air which makes women politicians fierce feisty once they cross over the county border into Donegal.

Last year Fine Gael firebrand Lucinda Creighton decided to let fly at her leader and her party only minutes after she arrived at the MacGill summer school in Glenties, declaring there could be "no room in Fine Gael for cute hoor politics".

And yesterday it was the turn of Fianna Fail senator Averil Power to launch a serious bout of Bertie-bashing at her debut at the annual talking-shop.

It was the first session of the day and was titled: 'Has the Political Landscape in Ireland Changed Forever?'

The Dublin senator was on a discussion panel alongside Fine Gael's chief strategist Frank Flannery and political pundit Noel Whelan.

Impressively, given that it was only 11am on a Monday morning, the hall in the Highlands Hotel was full for the grisly business of picking over the half-dead carcass of Fianna Fail in an effort to explain how it had all gone so horridly pear-shaped for the decimated ranks of the Soldiers of Destiny.

Averil, who won her seat in the Seanad after a general election defeat when she ran as a first-time candidate for Fianna Fail in Dublin North-East, had obviously not read the fun-killing Oireachtas memo which sternly decrees that newbies should be seen around Leinster House, but not heard -- and most certainly should not be heard sticking the boot into party panjandrums either past or present. She was having none of it.

Instead she stood on the stage and spelled it out for any remaining deluded souls within her party who fondly imagine that after a short spell in the doghouse, the electorate will hang out the bunting, break out the beers and welcome them back.

"It would be wrong for anybody in Fianna Fail to think that our vote collapsed simply because of a breakdown in traditional loyalties.

"For the first time in our history, Fianna Fail cannot take its continued existence or relevance for granted," Averil stated.

But then she broached the delicate subject of ethics, but didn't take the delicate route.

"While breaches of ethical standards occurred in almost all parties, we must recognise that Fianna Fail, more than any other party, has been associated with the worst of those breaches," she said.

"An absolute commitment to upholding -- and being seen to uphold -- the highest ethical standards must be non-negotiable for all parties on this island. For Fianna Fail this is doubly so."

Golly. But these were just the warm-up karate moves.

Then came a flurry of digs, aimed squarely at the hapless heads of Bertie Ahern and Ivor Callely, both of whom have had their own, ahem, difficulties with spondulick-related explications.

"In the new Fianna Fail, our moral compass must never again be thrown off by the magnet of loyalty," she firmly announced.

And then came the coup de grace from Averil the Assassin.

"In the new Fianna Fail, there must be no place for anybody who thinks it's acceptable to claim expenses from the taxpayer from their holiday home," she said before continuing, "and in the new Fianna Fail, there must be no place for anybody who thinks it's acceptable to carry around suitcases full of cash, give loans to friends from party funds or refuse to answer reasonable questions about their rather unorthodox financial arrangements."

By the hokey.

Although she didn't actually name the subjects of her disapproval, the ears of the former Taoiseach and former senator must've been scorching hot.

And that distant muffled thud which rose from the vicinity of Drumcondra was the final falling from grace of the once-revered Bertie.

And it was a sure sign that the boys' club of Leinster House ain't what it used to be.

Nor had the senator tipped off her party leader Micheal Martin beforehand that she was about to go Bertie-bashing.

Her fellow panelist Noel Whelan -- a one-time member of the Fianna Fail famiglia -- reckoned that Fianna Fail was currently "in intensive care and on balance I don't think it will pull through".

And with the long-awaited Mahon Report (which is unlikely to make pleasant reading for Bertie) due to be unleashed in September, the ailing patient is unlikely to rise like a latter-day Lazarus anytime soon.

But at least if it's going down, it's going down fighting.

Irish Independent

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