Wednesday 16 January 2019

Girl Power Why Averil's not running scared of rabbitte

JUST for the record, Fianna Fail's blonde bombshell Averil Power wasn't idly hanging around Grafton Street last Monday waiting for Micheal Martin to come a-calling with a front bench portfolio.

Pat Rabbitte and his notoriously acerbic tongue might have been unimpressed with the unelected politician's new promotion, but Ms Power is unashamedly unapologetic.

"I studied political systems in college and I had given Micheal Martin some of my suggestions on political reform. He could have given the role to a TD who's been in there for 10 years and is used to the current system, but why not give it to someone who isn't part of the system?

"There's a view that you have to take the long path to everything and I don't agree with that."

We're in a windswept housing estate in Bayside, part of the Dublin North East constituency where Averil is bidding to become the area's first female TD.


Having run unsuccessfully in the 2009 local elections, she boasted considerable recognition on the doorsteps. And then Pat Rabbitte put his size 11s in it and ensured that Averil Power was the name on everybody's lips this week.

"I didn't want to overreact when he said it," she explains.

"I'm well able for Pat Rabbitte and the remark wouldn't upset me, but I would worry that it would put other people off, that it would stop women from going into politics. Fianna Fail has never run a woman in this constituency and there has never been a female TD in this constituency." And, she added: "You don't want people to look at you and say that looks are the only reason you're there."

Grinning, she concedes that Pat Rabbitte's comments were "half-flattering", and the resulting publicity hasn't hurt either. "I've since met people who have said they saw me on Vincent Browne's show and a couple of women spoke to me and said 'we can't believe Pat Rabbitte said that'."

Mind you, if Pat Rabbitte knew the target of his jibe has just taken up boxing, he might have thought twice about a confrontation. In October, Averil pulled on the gloves for a boxing tournament in aid of Trinity Boys Boxing Club, emerging victorious after her bout. Yet, despite running for the nation's bad boys, Fianna Fail, she hasn't had to put her new-found combative skills to use on the doorsteps.

And while the city is rife with rumours of embattled Fianna Fail politicians running scared from irate voters, Averil's door-knocking isn't exactly fraught with danger.

When she turns up at the door of young voter Mark Cullen, he's so pleased to see a politician in person that he immediately shakes her hand.

"Ah I'll give her a vote," he tells us afterwards. "Fair play to her. At least she made the effort and knocked on the door. Terence Flanagan just put his leaflet in the letterbox."

The aforementioned Terence, Fine Gael, is widely expected to hold his seat, along with Labour's Tommy Broughan. The prediction is that Averil is fighting a losing battle and Sinn Fein's Larry O'Toole will win the shake-up for the final seat.

The odds might be stacked against her, but she hasn't hung up the gloves yet, insisting: "What I'm getting on the doors is that there's a lot of confusion. People are equally unimpressed with other parties so they haven't decided what way they're voting."

She may also be helped by the fact that she doesn't come from a Fianna Fail family, given that the electorate appears to be fed up to the back teeth of dynastic politics.


Averil, who grew up on a council estate in Shankill, explains: "I was the first of my family to go to college and the first to finish school, my brothers left school at 15. I was impressed that Fianna Fail had such a strong education policy and that's what me interested."

Meanwhile I get the impression she's not shedding a tear for the departed Brian Cowen, and when I suggest as much, the habitually chatty candidate suddenly clams up. But the impish look on her face speaks volumes, suggesting his resignation came not a moment too soon.

As I take my leave, she nods to her shivering campaign team. Braving the elements is one thing, but on Sunday, Averil put them to work on her old city council election posters, using nail varnish to remove writing so that they can be reused.

Waste not, want not. Perhaps that's a philosophy her party's former figureheads would have done well to embrace.

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