Aontú deputy leader and Derry councillor Anne McCloskey to stand in Sligo/Leitrim in Dáil election
AONTÚ'S deputy leader, Derry councillor Anne McCloskey, is to stand as a candidate in the Republic's general election in Sligo/Leitrim.
Dr McCloskey is the party's highest-profile representative in the north and one of two councillors in Northern Ireland.
She is now targeting a seat in the Dáil, just months after she was elected to Derry and Strabane council.
The all-Ireland, republican and pro-life party, headed by Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín, is standing several dozen candidates next month - the first time it has taken part in a general election in the Republic.
It is focussing on four constituencies - Cavan, Wexford, Donegal and the retention of the Meath West seat.
However, Dr McCloskey said she felt it was important to stand in Sligo/Leitrim - a constituency she said she knows through regular visits.
"Aontú is a fledgling political party," she said.
"We have a group of very committed activists in Sligo who were very keen for someone to stand."
The constituency takes in all of counties Sligo and Leitrim, part of southern Donegal and part of northern Roscommon.
Dr McCloskey said she had discussed the possibility of standing with Mr Toibín several weeks ago.
She said the party had a "mountain to climb" with just two-and-a-half weeks to go until polling day on February 8 but she was "looking forward to the challenge".
Dr McCloskey claimed the party has gained supporters from across the political spectrum, including from the unionist community.
"I do believe that we can make significant relationships with people who have similar views to us about life and the family - that's a political thing, not a religious thing," she said.
"We are a broad church that is open to all."
She added: "We are the only all-Ireland party who is unequivocally standing up for the right to life."
Dr McCloskey added that if elected she would give up her seat on Derry and Strabane council.
Aontú was established last year after Mr Tóibín left Sinn Féin.
He claimed he had been ostracised from the party because of his opposition to abortion.
Several high-profile former Sinn Féin members, including Francie and Anne Brolly, later joined the party.
Aontú claimed three seats in last year's local elections in the Republic.