Within hours of quitting Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin gave Averil Power the only role that seems open to women in the party now — that of office cleaner.
The senator was told to waste no time cleaning out her Oireachtas office so that it would be ready for something that was even rarer than a Fianna Fáil female in Leinster House — a Fianna Fáil byelection winner.
Mr Martin wanted to parade Carlow-Kilkenny victor Bobby Aylward through the gates of Leinster House like a political show pony, but despite the strong May sunshine it was raining on Micheál’s parade plans as he remained drenched in criticism from the sudden storm of Averil showers.
And as Ms Power, or Ms Power-Mad as Micheál would have us believe, continued to shower the Fianna Fáil leader in rage, he was finding it difficult to try and change the political weather.
Mr Aylward should have been the centre of attention, but with all eyes staying on Averil, he just ended-up at the centre of continued internal Fianna Fáil sniping.
Though, as well as being given a spanking clean office by Averil, Mr Aylward was also given the warmest of welcomes on all sides of the House by everyone who seemed to use his arrival to score political points from the Taoiseach downwards.
Mr Martin was not above this as he wryly noted that FF Carlow-Kilkenny constituency companion, and arch-Micheál-baiter, John McGuinness, had “worked extremely hard” to ensure the byelection victory.
This produced waves of laughter around the chamber as Mr McGuinness’s curious decision to jet off to the Canaries during the campaign brought cries of “How was Santa Ponsa, John?”
Of course, Mr McGuinness is at pains to scotch those awful rumours that he is not best pleased about having a rival on his home turf as the general election looms. And well aware of his careless habit of losing Oireachtas members, Mr Martin kept a firm grip as he shook hands with Mr Aylward on taking his seat on the FF benches.
But before he could get there, the newest TD was intercepted by de-facto leader of the Independents Finian McGrath, whose enthusiastic leaping on Mr Aylward, caused Mr Martin to turn around and joke: “Get your eyes off him.”
But Fianna Fáil TDs did rally around Mr Martin — at least in public — as they draped him in the manner of human shields, though the curtain of unity was slipping — Ken Curtain (well, Curtin) to be precise. The senior Cork activist fled the party, making the same kind of complaints about the leadership and its lacklustre support for the marriage equality campaign on the way out that Ms Power had.
This sent Fianna Fáilers into a frenzy as they were falling over each to say how much they had done for the cause, well all apart from one.
Though usually the voice of the traditional conservative wing of the party, Éamon Ó Cuív was strangely tightlipped on the matter of the moment, saying no when politely asked if he would enlighten us as to what, precisely, he did for the yes campaign. “I did everything the party asked me to, that’s all I’m going to tell you,” he said as Mr Aylward was being ushered in through the gates.
With the power of Averil’s stinging denunciation of the party still hanging in the air, Fianna Fáil wag Timmy Dooley greeted the new boy with gallows humour as he noted: “It’s one in, one out.”
But the uncomfortable truth for Fianna Fáil is that Ms Power’s departure will have more impact on the party’s prospects than the byelection winner’s arrival as she is the only one to emerge from this grubby little affair with clean hands.
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