Saturday 19 October 2019

Tóibín siblings aim to show their new party has lots to offer disillusioned voters

Point man: Navan local Louise Dunleavy with Emer Tóibín and her brother Peadar, canvassing for the local elections in Navan. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Point man: Navan local Louise Dunleavy with Emer Tóibín and her brother Peadar, canvassing for the local elections in Navan. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
John Downing

John Downing

The would-be voter is extremely polite, but also quite immovable.

"I was very involved in politics - but now I'm just too disillusioned. In fact, I'm fed up. There is just no integrity left in Irish politics," he tells the canvassers.

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It is mid-morning in a rather nice housing estate on the fringes of Navan in Co Meath. Peadar Tóibín, the former Sinn Féin TD who less than four months ago launched his new national party Aontú, is knocking doors with his sister, Emer Tóibín, who is standing for Meath County Council in this Friday's election.

The Tóibíns are pretty upbeat at news that the fledgling party, with few resources and little media attention, has registered 2pc in weekend polls from the survey company, Red C. Seen in context, it is a reason to be encouraged - many commentators made much of the Green Party, which has been on the go since 1981, hitting 7pc in that same opinion poll.

Mr Tóibín, who in February 2011 had become the first Sinn Féin TD elected in Meath since Liam Mellows in 1918, definitively ended 21 years of party membership last November and launched his 32-county party in late January.

His main point of contention was changes to the ban on abortion, but he insists that failure to respect his personal conviction was also a symptom of a wider malaise across mainstream Irish political parties.

Now on the canvass trail, he takes a few moments to give a resume of his party's aims and goals to the man on the doorstep.

"I understand what you're saying. The problem is that politics is now being done by trying to find what the public mood is via market research and then trying to give them what they want. There is very little integrity," he tells him.

Emer Tóibín explains why she is standing for the council flying the Aontú colours. The pair grew up in a house of seven children, where everyone debated the politics of the day and stayed abreast of current affairs, while their mother, Margaret, encouraged them to think for themselves.

Ms Tóibín holds a degree in French and German and a masters in business studies. After a wide variety of jobs, including teaching autistic children, she began working with her brother in 2013 after he first broke with Sinn Féin. When the new party was launched, it seemed logical that she would stand for Meath County Council.

Six outgoing councillors are contesting seven seats in the Navan electoral area, and Ms Tóibín is among nine other candidates. She is hopeful that even those who disagree with their opposition to repealing the Eighth Amendment will support her because of the new party's principled stand and policies of equality, justice and unity.

She will campaign for a Navan-Dublin rail link to help people who commute up to three hours per day and says "people power", which saved Navan Hospital some years ago, can triumph to redress neglect of this huge commuter town.

Irish Independent

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