Sunday 22 April 2018

Leo backs her for Seanad, but Averil is not joining FG

Averil Power Photo: David Conachy
Averil Power Photo: David Conachy
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Health Minister Leo Varadkar's backing of Independent Senator Averil Power had an unexpected result - she got a flurry of calls and texts wondering if she was joining Fine Gael.

However, Ms Power - while pleased with the backing of Mr Varadkar - says she's very much remaining an Independent.

"I said when I left Fianna Fail that I was going to be an Independent and I have to say I find it much more productive," she said.

"You're able to work with people from different parties on different issues and I've done that on mental health, on my Adoption Bill, on marriage equality, on various different issues. I find it much, much better," she said.

Mr Varadkar filmed a short video for Ms Power in the grounds of Trinity College.

"I have known her since college, where she was an excellent president of the Students' Union. I really respected her leadership in the marriage equality campaign.

"She has also been a constructive and effective member of the Seanad and I hope she is re-elected," he said.

Ms Power is contesting the Seanad election in the University of Dublin constituency of around 60,000 Trinity College graduates.

Outgoing senators in the constituency - Independents David Norris and Sean Barrett and Labour's Ivana Bacik - are also among the candidates.

"I'm delighted to have Leo's personal endorsement. We've known each other for years... Our politics would be quite different and we've crossed swords on health and other issues in the Seanad but he's someone that I would have a lot of respect for.

"I think the Seanad is different to a Dail election. It's tended not to be a creature of the political parties, particularly the universities... I've got a lot of motions and Bills through the Seanad working on a cross-party basis."

Ms Power quit Fianna Fail in the wake of the marriage referendum. She contested the General Election in Dublin Bay North and narrowly missed out on a Dail seat.

Other high-profile figures backing her are businesswoman Norah Casey, author John Banville, CEO of Headstrong Dr Tony Bates and mental health advocates Conor Cusack and Niall Breslin.

The University of Dublin Seanad electorate is spread out across the country and abroad, in an election in which emigrants have a vote.

In an unusual move, Ms Power is canvassing door-to-door in areas where there are concentrations of Trinity graduates. "Everybody's registered at their parents' address," she observes. "We're meeting a lot of parents and I'm persuading them that they should talk to their son or daughter for me and put in a good word."

Voting closes on April 26.

Sunday Independent

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