“I had been a member of Fine Gael for six years, and was elected to the party’s youth executive alongside Leo Varadkar and Lucinda Creighton. My role was organiser with the youth wing meant I had canvassed in 25 constituencies with three different Fine Gael leaders. I was on the Youth of the European People’s Party conference circuit with Leo and Lucinda. My involvement was obsessive. The initial motivation to join was probably influenced by my grand-uncle, a member of the Michael Collins’ 12 apostles. There was a trajectory: I was 25 and needed to make a decision between politics or a professional career.
“Enda Kenny was the guest of honour at the youth wing’s national conference dinner held in Ennis in 2003. A leading member of the organisation rose to give the after-dinner speech. He got carried away with the moment, and revealed to his audience the membership of a secret committee he had established subsequent to the hammering Fine Gael received at the 2002 election.”
“The committee consisted of his drinking mates who followed the same football club, but had only a peripheral involvement in Young Fine Gael. Lucinda was sitting opposite me, and it was the first she had heard of it as well. That incident crystallised a pattern of exclusion, inequity and misogyny we had both felt.”
“‘If the ethos of YFG is built on a secret ‘rejuvenation committee’ based on exclusivity by a group of young men, I am asking you as leader of Fine Gael, if I decide to commit my life to the vocation of politics, will it be tone where the young boys’ club simply matures into an old boys’ club?’ I wrote in my letter to Enda.”
“He rang me about it a couple of times. He was sincere and listened. We met in a pub in Tipperary and it became intense as the night wore on. I admired him. I still do. But I don’t think he ever understood what it felt like to be told you were not good enough because your anatomy was different. He patted me on the back. I chose academia and journalism.”
Elaine Byrne’s article reflecting on her dark past in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post (behind paywall here).
Previously: The John Deasy Transcript