Tuesday 24 October 2017

TDs rally around Martin in bitter war of words over Power exit

Senator Averil Power at Government Buildings yesterday
Senator Averil Power at Government Buildings yesterday
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD pictured addressing media in Ballintemple, Cork city following Senator Averil Power’s decision to quit the party
Niall Collins

Philip Ryan and John Downing

Fianna Fáil TDs have rallied around party leader Micheál Martin in the wake of stinging criticism from Senator Averil Power.

The "bombshell" resignation by the gay rights campaigner has sparked a bitter war of words and cut short the party's celebrations following its by-election victory at the weekend.

In her resignation speech, she accused Mr Martin of being a "leader without any followers" and said the party's approach to the referendum was "cowardly and cynical".

And last night Ms Power (36) went further, telling the Irish Independent that Mr Martin had refused to drop a "single leaflet" supporting same-sex marriage in his Cork constituency or attend local meetings on the issue.

She 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 those leaflets, including Micheál," she said.

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

However, he did say he "went out on a limb" to get her elected to the Seanad in 2011 and claimed she quit because Seán Haughey was likely to be on the Fianna Fáil ticket with her for the general election.

Mr Martin's frontbench is standing firmly behind him with justice spokesperson Niall Collins saying he "utterly rejected Ms Power's unsubstantiated criticisms of the party and its leadership".

Within hours of her resignation, the party's whip, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, wrote to the senator instructing her to remove herself from the office she uses in the Fianna Fáil block in Leinster House.

Ms Power's resignation came a day ahead of the return to Leinster House of Bobby Aylward (60), who won the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election at the weekend.

It also emerged last night that former Fianna Fáil minister Martin Mansergh is to seek a Dáil comeback. The 68-year-old will be among the candidates before the party's selection convention for the new five-seat Tipperary constituency on Thursday.

Mr Martin described the now independent senator's comments about his leadership as "disingenuous".

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil's referendum campaign director, said: "I'm very disappointed by her actions and comments. Yes, it's true that some Fianna Fáil representatives did not campaign in the referendum. But that is true of all parties and groups."

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

A number of TDs linked Ms Power's departure to the upcoming selection convention in her Dublin Bay North constituency. One senior party member said he was "seething" and said Ms Power should "do the decent thing" and resign her Seanad seat.

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

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

"When you want them to 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."

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.

Robert Troy said he was shocked but rejected her comments about the party leader.

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

Irish Independent

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