MEATH TD Peadar Toibin has resigned from Sinn Féin after 21 years as a member, claiming he has been “censored” by party chiefs.
The deputy handed in a resignation letter today “with a heavy heart”.
“I poured all my efforts into achieving Irish Unity & Economic Justice. This clearly is no longer enough. I will now help to build a new 32 County movement,” he said.
He had been suspended from party activity for six months after going against the party’s decision to back legislation allowing for abortion.
In a letter to the party, Mr Toibin said he had secured a deal with the leadership in November 2012 which stated the party “would treat me equally and would not marginalise me due to my views on the right to life as long as I also gave the party view”.
“This deal worked well for four years at no cost to the party”.
However, he said over the past 18 months the arrangement was “binned unilaterally by the party”.
“I have lost speaking rights, spokespersons positions, portfolios and have been significantly censored in my engagement with the media.
“These actions have prevented me from fully representing my constituents.”
Mr Toibin went on to say that he raised the issues with the management and leadership of Mary Lou McDonald’s party “but with no success”.
“I have strived in every way I know how simply to make space within the party for people with a different on this one issue.
“For a United Ireland to be achieved, the party must be flexible, broad and inclusive,” he said.
Finally he wrote to Ms McDonald and others in the party hierarchy two weeks ago, seeking to know if he had a future in the party.
“This email was never replied to. That may be an answer in itself,” his resignation letter concludes.
Speaking outside of Leinster House Mr Toibin hinted at a plan to set up a new political party but said that party would not seek another referendum on the Eighth Amendment, adding that he accepts the decision of the Irish people.
The key aims of the party would be a united Ireland and economic justice, he said.
He aid that he believed there were issues in Sinn Féin which needed to be addressed but would not be drawn on what these were.
However if they weren’t addressed he warned that he will not be the last to leave the party.
“I have a high regard for many TDs and representatives within Sinn Féin.... I really wish them luck with the necessary reforms that need to be carried out within the party - they know what those reforms are. But if they don’t fix them I won’t be the last [to leave]," he told reporters.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that it's "with regret" that she heard of Mr Tóibín's resignation, saying he was "a valued member of the the party".
She added: "Sinn Féin is home to a diversity of views; we debate and our members vote on policy at our Ard Fheis.
"All Sinn Féin elected representatives are bound by the decisions of the Ard Fheis.
"The people voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment. There is a responsibility on all Sinn Féin TDs to give effect to the people’s vote and to represent Sinn Féin policy.
"Unfortunately Peadar was unable to do this and was suspended from the party and has now taken the decision to resign.
"I wish Peadar and his family well for the future."