Thursday 5 December 2019

Power 'carpeted' by Martin over article

Senator Averil Power
Senator Averil Power

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

Micheal Martin "carpeted" Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power over her criticism of the party's failure to attract more women candidates, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

The Fianna Fail leader summoned Ms Power to his office to deliver the dressing down on the same morning as the high-profile senator's comprehensive critique of the party's gender quota policies appeared in The Irish Times.

Ms Power is one of only two female Fianna Fail parliamentarians while the party has no female TDs and, consequently, no frontbench female members. As the local elections loom, far from remedying the situation, Fianna Fail continues to lag some distance behind other parties.

Fianna Fail has selected just one female candidate in the European elections, and a mere 17pc of its local election candidates are female, despite setting a target of 33pc. The party is also not running a single female candidate in two counties, Longford and Louth, while in five other counties, less than 10pc of its candidates are female.

Despite Mr Martin's attempt to cultivate a more female-friendly image for the party, Ms Power said in the article that promises about "reform and renewal" did not appear to have happened.

The senator noted a taskforce to improve female participation in Fianna Fail, of which she was chair, developed a new action plan, but "implementation has been patchy".

Ms Power said many recommendations did not go ahead, such as the setting up of a group tasked with receiving and supporting expressions of interest from potential female candidates and a Women's Conference "to bring female members together and encourage them to go forward as potential candidates".

In a scathing critique of the party hierarchy, Ms Power added that the failure to get a single female TD elected in the 2011 General Election should have provided an impetus for FF to take "serious action to address its low rate of female participation".

In an indication of the sensitivity within Fianna Fail over the gender issue, the Sunday Independent has learnt Ms Power was "summoned to the leader's office".

"When I saw her going into the office I knew there would be trouble, Micheal was incandescent," a source said.

"Micheal is very sensitive about that, he has invested a great deal of time into the issue."

"He filleted her. The leader doesn't lose his temper very often, but, when he does, he can be quite ferocious," another source said.

Some colleagues were sympathetic, saying Ms Power was "merely articulating a growing disillusion between promise and delivery on these issues".

Ms Power was not available for comment.

Sunday Independent

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