Sunday 25 February 2018

Fianna Fail members 'seething' as Power walks in day of drama


Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power at Leinster House Dublin this afternoon where she announced to media that she was quitting the party effective immediately
Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power at Leinster House Dublin this afternoon where she announced to media that she was quitting the party effective immediately
Micheal Martin TD, Leader of Fianna F‡il Averil Power, Spokesperson on Political Reform, during a press conference on Political Reform at Fianna Fail's Election HQ, Dublin

Philip Ryan and John Downing

FIANNA Fail members were left "seething" yesterday after Senator Averil Power dramatically quit the party over its failure to canvass for the marriage equality referendum.

A bitter war of words erupted following Ms Power's shock resignation as she accused Micheal Martin of being a "leader without any followers" and branded the party's approach to the referendum "cowardly and cynical"

Mr Martin hit back quickly, claiming she quit because he would not allow her to run as the party's only candidate in her Dublin Bay North constituency.


He described her comments about his leadership as "disingenuous" and said he "went out on a limb" to get her elected to the Seanad in 2011.

Senior party members rallied around Mr Martin last night as the shock announcement brought a sudden end to celeb- rations of Fianna Fail's first by-election win in almost 20 years.

The party's referendum campaign director Niall Collins said he "utterly rejected Ms Power's unsubstantiated criticisms of the party and its leadership".

"I'm very disappointed by her actions and comments," he said. "Yes, it's true that some Fianna Fail representatives did not campaign in the referendum.

"But that is true of all parties and groups."

Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said he was also "dis- appointed" but insisted "no one is bigger than the party".

A number of TDs suggested Ms Power's move was motivated by local politics and linked to Sean Haughey's recent decision to declare his intention to contest the selection convention in Dublin Bay North

One senior party member said he was "seething" and said Ms Power should "do the decent thing" and resign her Seanad seat.

Within hours of her resignation, the party's whip Sean O'Fearghail wrote to the senator about removing her from the office she uses in the Fianna Fail block in Leinster House.

Last night, Ms Power dismissed the suggestion that she quit over constituency politics and insisted Mr Martin's "nasty attack" only confirmed she had made the right decision.

"It's extraordinary - when they want to be united they can," she told the Herald.

"When you want them to be decisive and make decisions that are important they struggle, but when they decide they want to attack somebody or be vindictive they marshal the troops pretty quickly."

She accused Mr Martin of refusing to drop a "single leaflet" supporting same-sex marriage in his Cork constituency or attending local meetings on the issue.

She also claimed none of the party's TDs and senators availed of personalised leaflets supporting a 'Yes' vote which she organised for the campaign.

"Not one of them ordered any of those leaflets, including Micheal," she said.

Mr Martin's spokesman said he did not want to comment on these accusations.

Ms Power also said party members laughed at her when she suggested they wear badges supporting same-sex marriage when they were campaigning for Bobby Aylward in the Carlow Kilkenny by-election.

Mr Martin denied this during a radio interview.

John McGuinness, who is an outspoken critic of Mr Martin, said Ms Power was a "voice the party needed".

"I am very sorry to see her go. She was a politician of conviction but she could not find her place in the party," he said.


TD Robert Troy said he was shocked but rejected Ms Power's comments about the party leader and insisted she was not "laughed at" after she expressed her views at a parliamentary party meeting.

Limerick TD Willie O'Dea said her departure was "a bombshell" and she would be a loss.

It also emerged last night that former minister Martin Mansergh is seeking to run for the party in the general election.


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