Saturday 25 November 2017

Dooley admits FF looks 'male, stale and beyond the Pale'

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin celebrates with the party’s by-election candidate Bobby
Aylward on his victory in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin celebrates with the party’s by-election candidate Bobby Aylward on his victory in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

The smiles were as wide as their cheeks would allow, as they galumphed over the Leinster House plinth like a herd of pinstriped buffalo.

In the middle of the determinedly jolly melee was the parliamentary party's latest acquisition - a (sort of) brand-new TD, Bobby Aylward, winner of the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election. It had been the party's first by-election triumph in almost two decades and a positive portent that perhaps Fianna Fáil can turn a corner and not discover an oncoming train rushing towards it.

But as the herd stampeded grinning towards the cameras, it was impossible to ignore the elephant among the buffaloes - the glaring lack of women among their ranks. It's all fir, no mná in Firnna Fáil. Or rather, with the dramatic departure of Averil Power, Senator Mary White is the last woman standing in the parliamentary party.

It was clear that Averil's departure (and the robust manner of it) had sparked both anger and upset among her colleagues, and almost immediately the air over Leinster House was filled with the rumble of wagons being hastily circled around the leader. Even Bobby's constituency mate, John McGuinness - a chap who keeps himself trim by throwing regular flurries of digs at Micheál's captaincy - stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the boss on the plinth and also raised Bobby's arm into the air in triumph for the phalanx of cameras.

But strive as they might, there was no getting away from the fact that Bobby's day in the sun had been dimmed by Averil Power.

The morning had been marked by the thunder of gunfire as pot-shots were traded over the airwaves.

Barry Cowen, who had been Fianna Fáil's campaign director in Carlow-Kilkenny, admitted as much. "It does overshadow it," he agreed.

"There was no need for her to do what she did," he added.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Averil's exit, it most certainly has left the party with a dreadful boy's club image. Even Clare deputy Timmy Dooley, a man rarely stuck for an answer, found himself replying to a question on whether the party now looks "male, stale and beyond The Pale".

He hesitated. "If you narrow your focus down to just the parliamentary party, then … yes," he confessed, before manfully trying to redeem the situation. "But there is quite an awful lot of young men and women in our councillor list," he added.

On the plinth, the lads did their best nothing-to-see-here routine.

"This happens in political parties, it happened in my day as today and I intend to make the best of it," smiled Bobby. "Hurrah! Wahoo!" doggedly cheered the brotherhood behind him.

Micheál echoed the sentiment. "Events happen in politics and I'm well used to it. Things happen, things move on. I've already articulated my views on that particular issue, I've no intention of adding anything further to that.

"Today is Bobby Aylward's day," he declared, avoiding any use of his former protégé's name.

Just before Leaders' Questions, Bobby arrived into the Dáil chamber to applause from all sides.

But he had barely settled into his seat next to John McGuinness when the slagging started. And it was kicked off by the Taoiseach when he rose to welcome Bobby back to the Dáil.

"In the spirit of comhghairdeas, I was going to say that in this business, you win some and you lose some…" he said slyly to guffaws of laughter.

"You may as well forget about power now, Micheál," added Patrick O'Donovan. Kathleen Lynch spoke on behalf of Labour "for gender balance", she sniped.

Poor, dazed Firnna Fáil. They're for the birds right now - and not in a good way.

Irish Independent

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