Northern Ireland news

Anne and Francie Brolly to stand for Aontú in local elections

Former Sinn Féin members Anne and Francie Brolly to stand for Aontú in May's local elections
Connla Young

A HIGH profile couple who quit Sinn Féin are to stand for new republican party Aontú in May's local elections.

Husband and wife Francie and Anne Brolly both left Sinn Féin in recent years over its support for abortion.

The pair are set for a return to politics after the formation of Aontú this year.

The party is headed by Meath based TD Peadar Tóibín who also left Sinn Féin after claiming he had been ostracised because of his opposition to abortion.

An ex-republican internee, Mr Brolly was a Sinn Féin assembly member for East Derry from 2003 to 2009.

He resigned from the party last year.

Mrs Brolly served on Limavady council from 2001 to 2014, but later allowed her membership of Sinn Féin to lapse.

Before entering politics the couple, who are from Dungiven in Co Derry, were well known on the music scene across Ireland.

Their son Joe is also a high-profile Gaelic games pundit with RTE.

Mrs Brolly said she and her husband felt there is work yet to be done.

"The reason we decided to go at this stage is that we passionately believe in life, unity and economic justice and have been involved in community affairs all our lives," she said.

"We both feel passionately about leaving this country in a better state. We can't afford the luxury of throwing in the towel and retiring."

The campaigning couple recently helped launch an Aontú cumann (local branch) in Dungiven named after Protestant United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken.

"We were inspired by the United Irishmen, founded in Belfast in 1791, who sought the unity of the Irish people, Protestant, Catholic and dissenter," she said.

"People have dived back to the trenches and we must work to unify communities. That's why we are standing in the local council, that's where unity starts, parishes, villages and towns. We have ideas we want to pursue regarding that."

Mr Brolly said that his stance on the abortion issue was a major reason for his return to politics.

"It's a hard decision and it continues to be hard," he said.

He said that Aontú's commitment to the concept of unity was important.

"It's not just about uniting Ireland, it's about uniting people," he said.

The veteran republican added that more needs to be done at a local level to bring nationalists and unionists together.

"It's such a nonsense that we have this difference in Ulster between Catholics and Protestants, we have been living together for 400 years."

Aontú is expected to field candidates in council districts across the north in May's local elections and has already attracted former members of Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

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