Northern Ireland

Aontú to stand candidates in May local elections

Peadar Tóibín has said his new party will stand candidates in May's local elections
Peadar Tóibín has said his new party will stand candidates in May's local elections Peadar Tóibín has said his new party will stand candidates in May's local elections

THE leader of newly established republican party Aontú has said it will contest local elections in the north this year.

Details of the new party’s name - which is the Irish for unity - emerged this week.

Mr Tóibín left Sinn Féin last year claiming he had been ostracised because of his opposition to abortion.

Since then he has held a series of meetings across Ireland, including several in the north, to recruit members to the new party.

Mr Tóibín last night said the party intends to field candidates in the north during elections in May.

The Meath West TD revealed he is in talks with up to seven Sinn Féin and SDLP representatives with a view to recruiting them.

He confirmed he held meetings with potential members this week during a visit north.

He also revealed that Aontú has established six new cumann across the north in recent months.

Earlier this month Fermanagh and Omagh councillor Rosemarie Shields became the first sitting councillor to defect to the new movement.

Mr Tóibín said Aontú was a party where people from Sinn Féin, SDLP and Fianna Fáil backgrounds would feel comfortable.

He spoke of the need for equality going forward.

"We want a country of Catholic, Protestants and dissenters for people who can be who they are without fear or favour and we want to see that flourish," he said.

He also said people were concerned about the potential impact of Brexit.

"People are shocked that our ability to move produce around the country may be affected by the whims of Tories who know nothing about our country or care less," he said.

Ms Shields last night confirmed she would seek re-election under the Aontú banner in May.

"I think there's an appetite for change and lot of people feel very let down by local politics," she said.

Ms Shields also revealed she had been contacted by other SDLP councillors and MLAs since she made the switch to Aontú.

"I know there has been an awful lot of interest, I have received a lot of queries and interest from elected representatives.

"It's not an easy thing to do, to leave a party, people become complacent and comfortable."

Ms Shields met Mr Tóibín when he visited the site of a proposed goldmine at Greencastle in Co Tyrone earlier this week.