I first met Averil Power during the Nice Treaty referendum of 2002. I was still a Progressive Democrat, and so had that inbuilt suspicion of Fianna Fail that was hard wired into us. But It didn’t take long for her to change that. Sure, I still told her she was an evil Fianna Failer, but she was also articulate, bright, but most importantly, and a quality that’s rarer than it should be in Irish politics, she was a true believer. She wasn’t campaigning for Europe just because that was the party line, but because she really believed in it.
Now, before this piece turns into a “Mother Averil of Dublin Bay North, let us touch the hem of her cloth and be grateful” bit of schlock, let me say that I’ve had disagreements with her. She’s a bit of an aul leftie, and I’ve told her on occasion that every time I speak to her about policy I feel my wallet lighten. She does have a genuine belief in the power of the state to do good, and I’m a bit sceptical about that.
But you know what? That’s what I like about her. She wants to discuss these things, the big picture and what direction a society should go. So many politicians are interested in getting elected, and then reelected, and all that policy stuff is for the civil servants. She’s ambitious too, she wants to get elected, there’s no denying that, yet Averil knocked on nearly every door of her constituency for a Yes vote, knowing full well that it might just as easily cost her votes. But she did it anyway because she believed, when the safe thing to do was to keep the head down save for a few photocalls in The Irish Times.
I can remember the moment I realised that she was serious about the power of politics, when she convinced me of the benefit for school breakfast clubs for kids coming into school hungry and falling asleep. This wasn’t a “look at my compassion” thing that politicians do on the telly, it was just the two of us talking and she knows she doesn’t have to convince me of her bona fides. Yet she still wanted to lay out the rational argument. As I said, a true believer.
Is she ambitious? Of course. Can she be too cautious for my liking? Definitely. But with a new Dail coming up that might have more Independents with actual power, we will need deputies who stand up both for their constituents but also recognise that we all have to live in a country together and there is such a thing as a national interest. A Dail Eireann with Averil Power in it is more likely to deliver that.
To paraphrase Bruce Wayne in “The Dark Knight”, I believe in Averil Power.