Whatever Sen Power says now, Fianna Fail’s Leadership took a strong stance

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?

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  • Sliothar

    Retaliation in first, Derek?

  • Jag

    What a complete unadulterated hypocrite (Averil, obviously). Pretending to resign on principled grounds when really it’s all about not being selected to stand in next year’s general election.What an awful woman, biting the generous hand that feeds her, stabbing that nice Micheal in the back just as Micheal gets a rare bit of good news.

    As the only FFer woman and only FFer Dubliner in the Oireachtas who predictably (she’s married to Sindo editor Fionnan Sheahan) pursued a prominent media profile, does she not realise that she’s a totally insignificant cog in a divine party?

    Why, she’s no better than Eamon O’Cuiv, John McGuinness, Jim Walsh, Michael McGrath, Mary Hanafin, Brian Crowley, Mark Daly and a handful of others who have kept their powder dry.

    Does she not realise Micheal has capably led the party all the way back from 17% in the 2011 general election to, just a brief four years later, 18-20% today on the back of an impressive and distinctive set of policies.

    Horrible, horrible woman.

  • Derek Mooney

    Nope – just setting out the views of someone who has no difficulty being critical of the party, but who doesn’t like seeing the case hi-jacked for other reasons.

  • Arthur Renfrew

    A MéFéiner leaving MéFéiner Central. And poor Micheál only had the sun cream on to bask in the glory of the Carlow/Kilkenny victory. Altar boy back to snarling dog. You have to admire Power’s timing. Beidh lá amháin ag an bPaorach.

  • Derek Mooney

    I just spotted my typo in the piece above (it was my fault) and want to clarify it, its about 6 paras from the end. It should read:

    “Perhaps the thing that most annoys me most about Averil’s resignation is the fact that she makes some points in her statement regarding the direction Fianna Fáil needs to take with which I agree and which I have made in the past.”

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Opinion polls during the campaign showed the percentage of FF supporters voting ‘no’ running about 50 per cent higher than the percentage of the electorate as a whole voting ‘no’. Apply this differential to the actual result, where the 38% ‘no’ vote was much higher than the polls indicated and its fairly clear that the majority of FF supporters voted ‘no’. Its likely that outside Dublin a large majority (60% plus) of FF supporters voted ‘no’.

    Averil Power is no loss. Good riddance. FF need to start scooping up as many as possible of the votes of those who voted ‘no’. No other party (with the possible exception of Renua) is looking for votes from this group. In fact, the other parties loathe and despise them. It should be an open door for FF.

  • Robin Keogh

    To read your post one would think that the only reason Power left the paty was because of her perceptions regarding the referndum campaign and the lack of party canvassing. In fact she listed a number of issues, not least the fact that she believed the front bench have selfish interests resulting in them pulling against each other. She also stated a number of other reasons and declared that she genuinely felt she couldnt go forward with the party any longer. The timing of her exit is perfectly reasonable, had it been last week or even earlier it might have had an impact on Waywards chances of securing the seat in Car/Kil and it would have deflected the parties attention away from the marraige referendum. After her announcement, MM pretty musc accused her of being the selfish one regarding the selection process in Dublin Bay and gave the impression that she was hissing at his unwillingness to manouvre her front and centre. Although this is pretty typical of MM’s dirty tricks habit and typical of FF’s tradition of spinning half truths and untruths, he went overboard in cutting her up and I hope it backfires. Power herslf came out and denied MM’s claims and stated credibly that it was not herslef pushing for selection but that the conversations she was involved with centred around the party;s plans to just place one candidate in each Dublin constituency. This sounds far more accurate given the party’s languishing in Dublin polls. The truth is power told the truth as to why she was leaving the party. The other truth is that rather than allow a perception to develop with the public that FF were in flitters internally, a decison was made to deliberately discredit her with false accusations. No surprise there regarding FF.

  • Steve Larson

    FF are already relying on the 70 plus vote. Not a good strategy for the decades to come.

    This is some disaster for them.

  • Steve Larson

    Power jumped off the Titanic at Cherbourg instead of carrying on to Cobh.

    FF is a collection of fiefdoms now under one banner and there isn’t much loyalty to the banner bar seat retention.

    This retaliation in early, set the narrative shows how much trouble FF know themselves to be in.

    Losing the young and motivated and maybe having Martin Manseragh run once more.

    This is a party on its last legs, it is now confined to a generation.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Power’s departure is no disaster at all. She’s an extreme social liberal, indistinguishable from Ivana Bacik. FF got 28 per cent in Carlow Kilkenny. The percentage of the population aged 70 plus is about 5 per cent, So, something wrong with your stats.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Michael Martin is pathetic. He should be replaced asap. He’s spent his entire period as leader trying to ingratiate himself with the Dublin 4 liberal Irish Times-reading set. He supported the coalition’s abortion liberalisation. He threw the FF party behind the SSM campaign, even though it is clear from the result that the majority of FF voters voted ‘no’. And in rural Ireland, probably 60%. Fat lot of good it did him. Read today’s IT and Miriam Lord. Even though Martin has spent the last few weeks trudging the country in support of SSM, they’ve turned on him with a vengeance. Apparently, Martin and FF coming out in support of SSM wasn’t enough for Dublin 4 liberals. FF’s crime now is that they didn’t display enough enthusiasm for SSM. They didn’t wear ‘yes’ stickers or paint their faces in rainbow colours to the degree that the Irish Times and Miriam Lord demanded.

    FF should forget about trying to win votes from Dublin middle-class liberals. The reality is that they’ve always hated FF and always will. FF should focus on the 38% who voted ‘no’. Outside the Pale, just short of 50% voted ‘no’, These people are FF’s natural constituency. No other major party is looking for votes from this group. They are there for the taking.

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst I know zero about politics in the south (though a willing student), general knowledge about political parties makes me ask do they not take up positions from principles,values and previous policies to appeal to their core vote …and then stretch to beyond? I can’t see in practice how it worked if as you claim FF official support for SSM was based on “trying to please” liberal Dubliners.

  • Robin Keogh

    John Ff got exactly the same result in the 201 GE. It was one of the rare constituencyies where their vote didnt implode. Long gone are the days they could command 40 or 50 percent of the vote there.

  • Derek Mooney

    If you read the final paragraphs in my piece you will see that I specifically quote two of the three criticisms she made in her resignation statement that do not relate to FF canvassing in the referendum.

    I believe her broader criticisms have some truth to them, but I make the point that on the marriage equality referendum the leadership had done the right thing in advocating a Yes and that citing our now doing the right thing on that specific issue was hardly a valid reason for resigning.

    We could have done more on the ground in many areas – but so too could many others. I know that in many places we did more than other political parties – though that was still a lot less than the Yes Equality civic society campaign.