High-profile former Independent senator and marriage equality campaigner Averil Power has ruled out running in the next general election after taking up a “challenging” €95,000 a year charity sector role.
The former politician, who failed to be elected to the Dáil after leaving Fianna Fáil last summer, confirmed her intention as she was announced as chief executive of the Asthma Society of Ireland.
Half a year after losing out in the race for a Dublin Bay North seat just months after her sudden departure from Fianna Fáil in the aftermath of the marriage equality campaign, Ms Power was yesterday appointed to the high-profile position.
However, despite the fact it will allow her to continue to be a prominent media presence and to lobby politicians on key health issues, the ex-senator told the Irish Examiner she has no intention of using her new patients’ representative role as a platform to return to politics.
“Will I ever go back to politics? I’d say never say ‘never’, but I won’t be running in the next general election and probably not for the next 10 years,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to take on a role like this, something that is very challenging, without giving it 100%, and I don’t see how I could give it 100% if I was out canvassing or dropping leaflets in the evening.”
Ms Power confirmed her new role comes with a €95,000 salary — a figure higher than the average TD salary — but said this was because the income level was set by an independent panel and that she had to go through an open interview process to be appointed.
She said the significant salary also comes from a merger of two positions in the charity — namely the chief executive position and the lead fundraiser position — and that combining these roles is saving the Asthma Society of Ireland money.
Ms Power said she applied for the charity’s CEO position in early summer in part because of her personal experience of being an asthma sufferer. She said she had her first asthma attack when she was in PE class in secondary school and had to be hospitalised a number of times due to the serious lung condition.
Asked what her priorities will be in terms of changing Government policy to support the estimated 470,000 people in Ireland with asthma, Ms Power said there is a need to reduce the cost of pre-asthma attack inhalers from their current €70-€100 a month rate and to ensure the condition is placed on the long-term illness scheme.
“I remember how frightening those [asthma] attacks were and I think it is shocking that over 50 people die every year in Ireland from preventable asthma attacks,” she said.
In a statement announcing Ms Power’s appointment, Asthma Society of Ireland chairman Oliver Carroll said the charity is “delighted” to welcome someone of such a high-profile to the role as Ms Power has a “deep personal commitment to the Asthma Society”.
Further information is available at www.asthma.ie and the Asthma Advice Line 1800 44 54 64.
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