Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and his TDs yesterday moved to minimise the fallout over the shock resignation of Senator Averil Power as the party welcomed its newest TD to the Dáil.
Mr Martin admitted Ms Power’s surprise departure had overshadowed the arrival of Carlow-Kilkenny by-election winner Bobby Aylward and that “events happen in politics”.
He deflected the ongoing criticism of the party by Ms Power, who has claimed TDs laughed at her concerns that nobody was out canvassing on the doorsteps for the marriage equality referendum.
“Hard work pays off, listening to people pays off,” Mr Martin insisted, as Mr Aylward arrived on the plinth at Leinster House. The byelection win is the first for Fianna Fáil in 19 years.
Surrounded by parliamentary members as well as his family, the newly elected TD said: “I’ve heard a lot of issues on the doorsteps in the last eight or nine weeks. And that’s the mandate of my people in Carlow and Kilkenny and I’m going to represent them with the issue which they told me about on the doorsteps.”
Mr Aylward, who lost his seat at the last general election, added: “My day is today and I intend to make the best of it.”
Sidestepping the row, Mr Martin said that people in Leinster House lived “in a bubble” and that people on the doorsteps were more concerned about “bread and butter issues”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, while warning Mr Aylward that he might have to be prepared for a general election at the end of next spring, pocked fun at the main opposition party, by saying: “You win some and you lose some.”
Privately Fianna Fáil TDs said Ms Power’s resignation had damaged the party and that morale was affected. Others were more bitter about the way Ms Power had left the party.
“Look at Fine Gael — did all their TDs go door to door? I think [Ms Power] got emotional with the referendum. These things [referenda] are fought elsewhere, on the air and on TV,” one TD said.
Mr Martin briefly addressed the resignation during the weekly meeting of the parliamentary party yesterday, where he told his TDs and senators he was not going to add to the issue.
Another party TD added: “It was dignified, we said we were disappointed at her leaving but didn’t believe there was much meat in her claims. There have been fallouts from other amendments in the past, such as divorce. But society evolves, parties evolve.”
Fianna Fáil parliamentary members again claimed the reason Ms Power left the party was because she would find it difficult getting selected to run in the general election in Dublin Bay North, with two Fianna Fáil councillors already set to contest the area.
“It was local politics,” said one Fianna Fáil TD.
Any claim by Ms Power that the party had at any stage promised her she could run alone in the packed five-seater at the next election were also dismissed by party headquarter sources.
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