Saturday 21 September 2019

Sinn Féin censored me, insists Tóibín as he quits to form party

‘Regret’: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald with Peadar Tóibín the launch of a policy document in 2014. Photo: Tom Burke
‘Regret’: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald with Peadar Tóibín the launch of a policy document in 2014. Photo: Tom Burke

Laura Larkin and Kevin Doyle

Meath East TD Peadar Tóibín has claimed he was "censored" and "marginalised" by Sinn Féin party chiefs and limited in his media engagements as he stepped down after 21 years.

He also warned that reforms were needed in the party, that party chiefs "know what those reforms are", and if they didn't happen, the party's "problems will continue in the future".

The pro-life TD, who campaigned actively for a No vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, claimed he was "marginalised" by the party over the past 18 months and faced a series of challenges including losing speaking rights and being limited in media engagements.

"I have lost speaking rights, spokesperson's positions, portfolios and have been significantly censored in my engagements with the media," he said in a letter to the party informing it of his decision to step down.

"These actions have prevented me from fully representing my constituents."

He said he had secured a deal with the leadership in November 2012 that 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".

However, he said he was "marginalised significantly" within the party over his opposing position, and despite having "worn a pathway to management and leadership doors", he could see no resolution to the issue.

He was handed a six-month suspension by the party after he voted against abortion legislation.

Mr Tóibín said: "There are issues in the party that have to be sorted out".

He refused to be drawn on the reforms needed but said they were known internally.

"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 said.

Asked about claims that the party has mishandled bullying in the past, he said: "There are clear problems in the organisation and those clear problems need to be resolved. I hope that they do resolve them because I would like to see a strong Sinn Féin in the future. If they don't resolve them, these problems will continue in the future," he said.

He now plans to build a new "32-county movement" and signalled ambitions to form a new party which would look to achieve a united Ireland and "economic justice".

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was "with regret" that she heard of "valued member" Mr Tóibín's resignation.

"Sinn Féin is home to a diversity of views; we debate and our members vote on policy at our ard fheis," she said, adding decisions at the ard fheis were binding.

"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," she said.

Irish Independent

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