Northern Ireland news

Peadar Tóibín's new party to contest north's 2019 council elections

Peadar Tóibín said his new party would contest next year's local government elections in the north

THE NEW republican party set up by Peadar Tóibín following his recent resignation from Sinn Féin will contest next year's local government elections in the north.

The pro-life Meath West TD parted company with Mary Lou McDonald's party last month claiming he had been marginalised and ostracised because of his opposition to abortion.

His as yet unnamed all-Ireland party has so far gained support north of the border from the late Martin McGuinness's brother Declan and Derry GP Dr Anne McCloskey, along with former Sinn Féin mayor of Limavady Anne Brolly and her husband Francie, a former East Derry MLA.

Mr Tóibín told The Irish News he had also been in discussions with a "number of people" in the north from the SDLP and Sinn Féin, as well as independents, including some at "elected level".

On Monday evening the party held a meeting in Navan Co Meath attended by 300 people and next Thursday December 13 will hold a similar event in Maghera Co Derry, its first in Northern Ireland. Further meetings are planned across the region early in the new year.

The Meath West TD said the party planned to contest next May's local government in elections in Northern Ireland and would run selection conventions for candidates in late January.

Mr Tóibín said "25 elected representatives at all levels and about one-thousand people" had committed to get involved in the new party, which positions itself on the left.

"No doubt once a number of people with a strong backbone make a decision it will give encouragement to others to get involved," he said.

He said it would be up to members to choose who will run in May's council elections but that he would welcome Mr McGuinness's candidacy.

"While obviously it's welcome when people of the calibre of Declan endorse the party and consider running in the future, our focus currently is seeking to get a foundation established and from there develop processes for selecting candidates," he said.

"That said, we'd be proud to have Declan run for us – there's no doubt about that."

Outlining where the party stood ideologically, Mr Tóibín said it was "republican in the spirit of '98", with an emphasis on supporting small medium-sized businesses and "an economy built on social justice".

The party, which will have an Irish language name that can be pronounced by non-Gaeilgeoirí, is "euro-critical" rather than eurosceptic and would take seats in Stormont but not at Westminster.

"Where we probably differ from Sinn Féin is that we look to our elected representatives to think more and challenge the status quo," he said, claiming there was a tendency for "group think" among parties north and south.

"There's a feeling that if you become a member of a political party then you have to buy-in to everything that's in a policy document when the truth is different," he said.

"There's a massive chunk of people in the north of Ireland that are uncomfortable with Sinn Féin's policies on a range of issues, and abortion would be one of those."

Mr Tóibín said he accepted that abortions would take place in circumstances where there was a threat to the life of the mother and in the "300-odd cases a year involving rape, incest and serious life-limiting conditions".

"But the abortion regime the (Irish) government are looking to bring in would have abortion on the basis of demand, which will lead to at least 7,000 abortions a year – there's a radical difference between those 300 and 7,000," he said.

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