The leader of Ireland’s newest political party has confirmed he will field a candidate in Foyle for this May’s local authority elections.
Peadar Toibin will hold a meeting tonight in Derry’s Maldron Hotel. The previously unnamed political party has in recent days been officially called ‘Aontu’-the Gaelic word for unity or consent.
Mr Toibin, who is TD for Meath West, resigned from Sinn Fein in November last year following the party’s support for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. He almost immediately announced that he would begin establishing an alternative republican organisation.
One of the central principles announced by the Aontu leader is that: “We seek the unity of Irish people north and south and to build an Ireland for everyone – Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter in the tradition of the United Irishmen of 1798"
Asked about the likelihood of the success for that mantra in Northern Ireland, Mr Toibin told the Derry News: “I have been travelling up and down the north for a number of months speaking to people from the Catholic and Protestant community and it has been realised by everyone that the ability to do business is at the whim of the egos of Tories in London. It has also been realised that self-determination is a better and more logical way to protect against the political chaos currently facing us.
The Aontu leader says that around 3,000 people have already attended meetings of the party that he says has attracted 1,400 members in over 20 newly formed branches. Mr Toibin also contends that nine already elected political representatives have declared for the new party.
“People from the Protestant, unionist and loyalist community have come to our meetings and we have had good, robust conversations. They are attracted to us as a political party.
“I spoke to one man who didn’t want to vote for the DUP anymore but felt he had to in respect of the right to life issue. I explained to him that he doesn’t have to vote for the DUP anymore.
“But, I appreciate that people will have to get to know us and will have to trust us. I am confident that the pluralism at the heart of our project, without fear or favour will see us flourish.”
“I conducted an Oireachtas investigation into the economy and interviewed many people from across all cultural, religious and business sector backgrounds. The general agreement was that if we plan and fund together as one country it will be more efficient, less costly and a convergence north and south will mitigate any further chaos,” Mr Toibin said.
The political leader would not be drawn on who the Aontu candidate was likely to be in Derry for the Council elections scheduled for Thursday, May 2.
However he did say: “We have a number of people in mind and will hold a selection convention. We will announce our candidate before February 15.”
In recent months a number of names from Derry city and county have been associated with Peadar Toibin’s organisation. These have included Declan McGuinness, brother of the late Martin McGuinness, Dr Anne McCloskey and former Sinn Fein representatives Francie and Anne Brolly.
All of these prospective candidates have publicly voiced their strong opposition to the liberalisation of abortion legislation both north and south of the border.
Peadar Tobin added: “There is an avalanche of people who are getting in contact with us. Many of these people, who are from a Sinn Fein, SDLP, Fianna Fáil background are seriously frustrated that the leaderships of their parties. Many are saying to us that their leaders are actively doing damage to their core values. They are saying that their leaders are going in the wrong direction.
“Some have said that due to the length of time that they have been members of their parties and the close ties of friendship and comradeship that they are cautious about leaving. I understand that feeling all too well. But political parties are not social clubs. Political activism is much too important. If you are a member of a party that is actively doing damage to your core values, you are complicit in that damage”.
“The anger in the SDLP is palpable. The level of disrespect and ignorance being displayed by FF Headquarters to SDLP members is amazing. They are leaving them decay while waiting in limbo for a decision that may never come. FF headquarters give them enough to keep them hanging on but will never make a decision”.
“At these meetings it’s like watching a pressure cooker valve being released at meetings. People are saying that they have no one to vote for, that all the parties are uniform on so many issues. The truth is respectful opposition is not the enemy, it’s an important part of a health a democracy.
“Many people in the north are in food poverty, housing poverty and poor access to health care. Yet Stormont is in stalemate for over two years. The Good Friday Agreement was a great success but the institutions with in it are not working. We need to put an end to the dysfunction.”CAPTION: Peadar Toibin, leader of Aontu who will who hold a meeting in Derry tonight.
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