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'Averil did us an amazing disservice and I feel like her inconvenient truth'

Dublin councillor Paul McAuliffe on why his emotions went from disappointment to deflation and then finally to anger on Monday.

Paul McAuliffe

IT WAS MONDAY, the morning after a historic weekend in Dublin Castle and a Fianna Fáil triumph in Carlow/Kilkenny. What a way to start the week.

Having finished writing a press release, I clicked back to my website to upload some photos from the weekend. Pat Carey and Averil Power had shown great leadership as part of the Fianna Fáil campaign for Yes, I was proud to say I was in the same party as them.

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As I was uploading a photo of myself and Averil with the huge crowd at Dublin Castle, I thought I’d check Twitter to enjoy some more of the post-referendum buzz.

My heart sunk on seeing this:

There was no doubt in my mind what that meant. It was political code but the message was clear. She was ditching Fianna Fáil.

Ten minutes before her announcement, I decided to call her. I knew I couldn’t talk her out of it but I knew I had to try. The phone rang out and the call remains unreturned.

As the day dragged on, my emotions went from disappointment to deflation and finally to anger. I had thought, believed and hoped that Averil, other Fianna Fáil members in Dublin and I were on the same journey. I was obviously wrong.

Her departure unlike others felt personal.

In 2011, the job of renewing Fianna Fáil in Dublin rested with the small number of Councillors that had been elected in 2009.

Averil Power was selected and supported by the Party Leader to represent those councillors and in particular to represent issues important to women and to Dublin.

Dublin Councillors voted for her, many reluctantly I should add, asking why they as elected councillors should stand aside for someone who had never been electorally successful.

However, we felt that Michéal had a plan for Fianna Fáil in Dublin and Averil was part of it. The votes were cast and Averil Power emerged a senator.

A hill to climb for Fianna Fáilers

No one entering the demoralised Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party in 2011 could have been under any illusions about the scale of the challenge. With only one Dublin TD (Brian Lenihan would pass away a few short months later) and no female TDs, there would obviously be differences of opinion.

Dublin is, after all, very different to many rural constituencies and with different ways of doing its business. But that’s why Dublin Councillors elected Averil to Seanad Éireann – to represent those different ideas.

She was elected to be a counterbalance to the rural majority. We may not have elected many TDs but thousands of people still voted for the party in the capital.

Councillors in Dublin would continue to deal with problems like housing, crime and unemployment. Averil was to be our voice, and her mandate didn’t come from rural TDs in the Parliamentary party but from the Dublin Councillors who put her there. Her failure to deliver that mandate is particularly disappointing.

When it came to the Marriage Equality referendum, Averil displayed courage, strength and a flair for campaigning. She was not alone! I and many other Dublin Councillors lead the charge. Mainly through our involvement with the fantastic Yes Equality movement but also in party canvasses.

As I stood with her in Dublin Castle last weekend, we both agreed that some elected representatives could and should have done more but I also knew of the work of Charlie McConologue in Donegal, Robert Troy in Westmeath, Cllr Nicholas O’Keefe in Cork, Cllr Malcolm Byrne in Wexford, Cllr Mary Butler in Waterford and of my Dublin colleagues Cllrs Frank Kennedy, Jim O’Callaghan, Kate Feeney, Jennifer Cuffe, and Jack Chambers.

For the record, I knocked on doors, delivered leaflets, attended meetings and even incurred the wrath of my local parish priest on Twitter. There was nothing cynical about how I approached this campaign and I can say the same for many others in Fianna Fáil.

For months before – during our normal election canvassing – we had been asking people to vote Yes. With four weeks to go, we launched the nightly canvass, pulling in the usual Fianna Fáil canvass team but also many friends who just felt strongly on this issue.

A special Dublin North West coordination group was established on Facebook so all political parties could coordinate with the Yes Equality group.

It soon became obvious that it was easier to abandon the party canvass and join the YES Equality team. They had vast numbers of volunteers but appreciated experienced canvassers. It was a decision which Labour and Sinn Fein also made.

It did feel surreal swarming through Finglas West with me leading a canvas team on one side of the road and Labour TD John Lyons on the other – a routine we repeated many nights, culminating in the tally which took place in the RDS.

It was Fianna Fáil who ran the tally, guided the Yes Equality volunteers and enjoyed every minute of seeing so many young people watch democracy unfold.

Whose picture?

We had Fianna Fáil people out almost every evening for those few weeks. It is those people whom I feel most sorry for, people who spent nights knocking on doors and whose work was edited out but Averil’s narrative.

In painting a picture of Fianna Fail non-involvement earlier this week, Averil did an amazing disservice to all those people in the party who worked hard and fought hard for a Yes vote.

​There has been a lot of talk about ‘truth’ this week but, in many ways, I feel like Averil’s inconvenient truth.

I and others have put our shoulder to the wheel renewing the party in Dublin. We have brought forward new candidates and fought for republican values such as equality. In her statement this week, this truth was ignored by Averil perhaps because it is inconvenient, perhaps because it demonstrates that she walked away from a trusted position when others who have done far more with far less have not.

Paul McAuliffe is a Fianna Fáil Councillor on Dublin City Council where he represents Finglas, Ballymun, Glasnevin and Santry.

NOTE: Averil Power has contacted TheJournal.ie to say that her criticism of Fianna Fáil over the marriage referendum was confined to the parliamentary party.

I want to point out I specifically complimented several councillors in an email to Micheál Martin three weeks ago. I never said nobody did anything, there was just a general lack of effort and others said the same thing.

More: Disaster for Fianna Fáil as prominent Yes Equality campaigner quits

More: As Fianna Fáil weathers its week from hell, two former ministers are planning comebacks

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