Averil Power’s announcement this morning that she is resigning from Fianna Fáil is bad news. It will hurt the party and hurt the many people in Fianna Fáil who have supported her over the past few years.
Though I doubt Averil would have counted me as a particular friend, we did serve together as Ministerial Advisers for about six years. In that role I got to see her working up close.
I saw how committed and dedicated a worker she was and how, when she took a strong position on an issue, she was ready and willing to argue against all comers… which is why I find her statement and decision today so difficult to understand, or to sympathise with.
Like Averil, I also campaigned for a Yes on Marriage Equality. I advised and helped the Yes Equality campaign and have been doing so since late last year. I have been doing so a lot less publicly – apart from a couple of hundred Tweets – because I have a job that expects me to do some work occasionally.
For that reason I did nowhere near the volume of campaigning that Senator Power managed. All I did were a few leaflet drops and canvasses at Luas stops etc. with a range of fellow Fianna Fáil-ers including TDs and Dublin City Councillors. My own local Councillor and Dáil candidate, Jim O’Callaghan had his own Vote Yes leaflets printed and had nightly Yes canvasses.
I know – and completely agree – that many people in Fianna Fáil could and indeed should have done more for the Marriage Equality campaign in many areas, but it cannot be denied that the party leadership did work hard for a Yes and did nail the party colours to the Yes mast.
I wish the party had put a fraction of the resources into the Seanad No campaign that they put into the Yes Equality campaign, but do you want to know a secret – local political party organisations don’t do a lot in referendums. Not Fianna Fáil, not Fine Gael, not Labour, not Sinn Féin.
The sad reality of the decline in party political organisations is that that many party activists channel their time and energy campaigning through their local public representative.
Her resignation won’t change that reality one iota, indeed it merely adds to it and makes the job tougher for those of us who remain to fight their ground.
The timing of her statement seems calculated to do the most damage to Fianna Fáil, not just its leader. That I find harder to forgive or even to understand. Senator Power cannot credibly complain that her ambitions have been thwarted – she has enjoyed a smoother and less difficult path to the Oireachtas than very many others.
She has been at the heart of the party’s renewal efforts of the past few years and has been given a particularly high media profile. She was the party’s deputy Director of Elections during the last referendum campaign, she was picked out for senior posts by the leadership she now thinks it is time to attack.
While the very recent news that former Minister and TD Sean Haughey intended to seek the nomination to run for Fianna Fáil in the same constituency as her may have spooked her, she cannot possibly have imagined that he wasn’t going to do that from the very start?
Perhaps the thing that most annoys me about Averil’s resignation is the fact that she makes some points in her statement regarding the directions Fianna Fáil needs to take with which I totally agree.
Yes, Fianna Fáil has a great deal more work to do. Yes the leadership needs to up its game. I have been saying the same thing here and elsewhere for much longer than her, yet she concludes on realising these things that the course of action is to walk away rather than fight?
I agree totally with Averil when she says that:
• We need to state more definitively what Fianna Fáil stands for today and
• We need to take clear positions in key debates without fear of losing support.
But wasn’t Fianna Fáil calling clearly and unambiguously as a national party for a Yes in the face of some disquiet in the membership an example of the second point?
The Leadership took a stance and instead of being supported for doing that and backing it up with resources, they are to be undermined by those who supported that stance?
Where is the logic in that, Senator Power?
Why cite a point which is manifestly so incorrect as the basis on which to leave right now?
Perhaps the real reason lies in what the former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill used to say: all politics is local?