FIANNA Fáil’s reaction to my resignation has confirmed for me that I made the right decision.
Instead of dealing with the serious issues I raised about the party’s lack of vision, policies and leadership, senior members responded with a vicious attack on my character.
First Micheál Martin tried to portray my resignation as a constituency squabble by making the baseless claim that I left because I was afraid I wouldn’t be selected as a Fianna Fáil candidate for the next election. He knows this is not the case. Even constituency rivals, Sean Haughey and Deirdre Heney, stated on radio yesterday that they understood I would be on the ticket.
When the attempt to deflect and distract by making baseless claims about the constituency didn’t work, the party then tried to dispute my statement about its lack of any real campaign for the marriage equality referendum.
Unfortunately for them, the lack of Fianna Fáil support for marriage equality was evident for all to see.
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It was widely remarked on during the campaign. The head of the Yes Equality Campaign in Cork, Ken Curtin, cited it as his reason for resigning from the party yesterday. The party’s former minister and leading yes campaign figure, Pat Carey, also criticised it last weekend on the Marian Finucane Show.
For me, a referendum on equality went to the core of what real republicanism should be about. Our members knew that when they voted for a motion calling for the party to support marriage equality at the 2012 ard fheis.
Despite this, the vast majority of the party’s public representatives refused to campaign for it in their constituencies. Some Fianna Fáil representatives declared publicly that they were voting no. Others told me they would be voting yes but were afraid of campaigning for it in case they would lose votes.
Fianna Fáil’s overall approach to the referendum symbolised everything that is wrong with the party. It was cowardly and cynical and an example of cute- hoorism at its worst.
It also confirmed for me that despite the party leader’s talk of “new politics”, Fianna Fáil hasn’t changed and has no intention of doing so.
Over the past four years, I have tried very hard to change Fianna Fáil for the better. However, my efforts have repeatedly been rebuffed.
In 2011, when I called for the expulsion of Bertie Ahern, Micheál Martin reprimanded me because my call led to him being questioned about the issue.
It would be another year before he decided to recommend expulsion.
The strategy I was asked to develop on improving female participation in the party has largely been ignored.
I have also become increasingly uncomfortable in a parliamentary party that is out of touch with the needs and concerns of ordinary people.
I stuck with it because, despite everything, I still believed I could help deliver change from within. I was encouraged by the support of like-minded members. And I thought things would improve over time.
They haven’t and I no longer believe they will.
I gave an honest and fair assessment of the party when I resigned.
Fianna Fáil lacks conviction, courage, and commitment. It doesn’t know what it stands for and doesn’t have credible policies on many of the most important issues of concern to the Irish people.
It is also afraid to take clear positions in debates for fear of losing support, preferring to sit on the fence and see which way the wind blows instead.
These issues were a problem two years ago. As we get closer to a general election and the selection of the next government, they are fatal flaws.
I came very close to winning a Dáil seat for Fianna Fáil in its toughest every election in 2011. Having worked extraordinarily hard locally and nationally since then, I know I would have had a good chance of winning a seat next time. But the party’s approach to the marriage equality referendum confirmed to me that I don’t want to be a Fianna Fáil TD.
I simply can’t ask people to support a party I have no faith in.
Leaving Fianna Fáil was a difficult decision to make, especially as I have many good friends in the party. However, sometimes you have to be true to yourself and have the courage to walk away.
The party’s reaction to my departure has confirmed for me that I did the right thing.