independent

Monday 21 October 2019

Aontú's mantra is change but their policies seem like more of the same

Opinion

Editorial Comment

Meet the new boss same as the old boss. So sang The Who and so, it appears, do the members of Peadar Tóibín's new political party Aontú.

Last week Aontú announced, to little surprise, that the avowedly pro-life Sinn Féin splinter party will be seeking seats in the looming Westminster elections, whenever they actually occur.

Amid the ever twisting drama that is unfolding in Westminster, Aontú's announcement amounts to little more than a footnote but it is one worth noting.

Founded last January - after Deputy Tóibín split with Sinn Féin over its support for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment - Aontú is a conservative movement but it still shares many of Sinn Féin's core policies.

One key area where Aontú and Sinn Féin's policies align is that of abstention.

Sinn Féin - seemingly content to watch on as the Tory party destroys itself and the UK tears itself apart - has continued its historic policy of abstention in Westminster and has described as 'nonsense' the suggestion that its MP's should take their seven seats to join the fight against Boris Johnson.

As he launched Aontú's Westminster general election campaign, Deputy Tóibín said his party would adopt the same policy.

Aontú will fight for five seats in the North and if any of its candidates are successful - which is entirely possible given the fractured state of politics in the province - they will not take their seats at parliament in London.

It's understandable that Aontú would not wish to risk votes by abandoning a key tenet of republican politics in the North but by embracing abstentionism the party has immediately diluted its core message of change.

One of Aontú's main slogans is 'The political system is broken. Let's fix it'.

That's all well and good in theory - and it makes for an inviting soundbite - but in Europe no system is as broken as Westminster where Aontú say they plan to do nothing.

That doesn't sound like change, it sounds like more of the same.

'Aontú is determined to advance the causes of economic justice, Irish unity, employment, regional development and the right to life,' said Deputy Tóibín in his election announcement.

Again, that's all fine in theory but surely the best way to protect jobs, regional development and economic justice in the North right now would be to go to Westminster - even temporarily - and help stop the disaster of a no-deal Brexit.

Ireland and the UK are facing into our greatest crisis in decades and what happens at the election and over the next few months will shape the future of these islands for generations.

Political courage and a willingness to take risks for the greater good are what is needed now, not the narrow dogmatic thinking of the past.

That's what got us to the sorry position in which we find ourselves.

We need real change not just more of the same.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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