Aontú

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Aontú
LeaderPeadar Tóibín
Deputy leaderGemma Brolly
Founded28 January 2019; 5 years ago (2019-01-28)
Split fromSinn Féin
Headquarters8 Market Square, Navan, County Meath
Youth wingÓgra Aontú
Membership (2023)1,300[1][non-primary source needed]
IdeologyIrish republicanism
Social conservatism
Slogan
  • Life
  • Unity
  • Economic Justice
Dáil Éireann
1 / 160
Local government in the Republic of Ireland
3 / 949
Website
aontu.ie
The 'Irish Unity Centre', Aontú's head office in Navan

Aontú (Irish: [ˈeːn̪ˠt̪ˠuː];[2] "Unity")[n 1] is an all-Ireland political party that was formally launched in January 2019, and operates in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.[8][9] Ideologically, Aontú is opposed to abortion and combines elements of social conservatism with advocacy for a united Ireland and centre-left economics. It has been led by Peadar Tóibín since its foundation.

History[edit]

The party was founded by Peadar Tóibín, a TD who resigned from Sinn Féin on 15 November 2018 due to his anti-abortion views after opposing the party whip on the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.[10][11] Tóibín began canvassing elected representatives, securing support within a week from two local councillors in the Republic.[12] Tóibín held meetings across the island addressing interested potential members. The first Northern Ireland local councillor declared on 7 January 2019.[13] As of 28 January 2019 eight councillors had joined.[14] A second councillor in Northern Ireland joined on 26 February 2019.[15]

The name Aontú was announced at a meeting in Belfast on 28 January 2019.[16] The Meath Chronicle said that the announcement of the name was precipitated by its unexpected publication on the UK Electoral Commission website.[7] Tóibín said the party had sought registration in both jurisdictions, that "Aontú obviously means unity and our major objective is the unity of Irish people north and south".[17] He recalled that Belfast was the birthplace of the United Irishmen of 1798.[18] Aontú would "seek to build an all-Ireland economy to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit, economic justice for all and to protect the right to life."[8][6] Tóibín said he was talking with Sinn Féin, SDLP and independent representatives in Northern Ireland,[19] and that "people from Sinn Féin, SDLP and Fianna Fáil backgrounds would feel comfortable" in the party.[17]

Aontú's then deputy leader Anne McCloskey came under criticism for her comments about the effectiveness of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, with party leader Peadar Tóibín defending her right to her view on the topic.[20] McCloskey stepped down as a councillor in October 2020, and was replaced by party member Emmet Doyle.[21][22] She was replaced as deputy leader by Denise Mullen. At the 2022 Ard Fheis, Mullen stepped down from the position of deputy leader and was replaced by Gemma Brolly, Aontú candidate for East Derry at the May 2022 Assembly election.

In November 2020, the Standards in Public Office Commission announced that Aontú were one of five political parties who failed to provide them with a set of audited accounts for 2019, in breach of statutory obligations.[23] In response, Aontú released a statement claiming that they had submitted the account statements and apologising for the delay, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.[24]

Ideology and platform[edit]

Party founder and leader Peadar Tóibín has described Aontú as left of centre economically while "socially conservative".[25][26] The party was described by the unionist Belfast News Letter as "Catholic conservative"[27] and by The Times as "socially conservative",[28] while Harry McGee described the party's ideology as "rural conservatism and traditionalism".[29] It is anti-abortion.[6][30][31] The Phoenix has described Tóibín and Aontú as possessing a "strong rightward stance" on immigration[32] while Gerald Howlin of the Irish Examiner has described Tóibín's views on immigration as "nativist".[33] Tóibín advocates for "sustainable levels" and "managed" immigration into Ireland and has called for "a nuanced debate that lies neither in walls nor in open borders."[34][35] In 2021 deputy leader Denise Mullen called for greater action during the Afghan refugee crisis and for Ireland to be "a leader in accepting Afghan refugees".[36] The party is also Eurosceptic.[11][37]

The party holds left-leaning views on economics and climate change.[30] As of early 2020, the party's published policies included proposals for a United Ireland; a referendum on a "right to collective bargaining and trade union membership";[38] an end to zero hours contracts;[38] and increased state spending on public housing.[39] Their site states Ireland should model itself on the "best practice in Scandinavian countries."[38] In their 2021 budget submission, they called on changes to the state pension scheme, reducing Leap Card fares and increasing the Banking Levy.[40]

While Aontú was founded in a split from Sinn Féin, Aontú members and elected representatives come from different political backgrounds: two councillors were former members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, one councillor was a former member of Fianna Fáil, and two other councillors never held political office prior to joining Aontú.[41][42][43][44] The party retains the ideology of Irish republicanism[45] and related policies; for example, Aontú maintains a policy of abstentionism, which means that while it runs candidates in Northern Ireland in British general elections, should an Aontú candidate be elected they would not take up their seat in the British parliament.[46]

The Irish Catholic editor Michael Kelly believed the party could "capitalise" on the "abandon[ment] [of] many of the values that were key to a largely Catholic electorate in the North" by "the traditional parties of nationalism".[47]

Elections[edit]

2019 local elections[edit]

At the 2019 Northern Ireland local elections on 2 May, Aontú nominated 16 candidates across 7 of the 11 local councils.[48] It won one seat, Anne McCloskey in Ballyarnett DEA on Derry and Strabane Council, with its two outgoing councillors losing their seats.[49] Several months after the election, a councillor for the SDLP in Mid Ulster joined Aontú.[50]

The party nominated 53 candidates for the Republic's local elections on 24 May, including its seven sitting councillors. Three were elected.[51] It did not run any candidates in the elections for the European Parliament held in Northern Ireland[52] or in the Republic.[53]

2019 Dáil by-elections[edit]

Aontú contested two of the four 2019 Dáil by-elections. Finian Toomey came 7th in Cork North-Central with 1,008 votes (3.9%), being eliminated on the fifth count. Jim Codd came 6th in Wexford with 2,102 votes (5.2%), being eliminated on the second count.

2019 United Kingdom general election[edit]

Aontú contested seven of the 18 Northern Ireland seats in the 2019 United Kingdom general election. The party received 9,814 votes (1.2%).

2020 Irish general election and Seanad election[edit]

Aontú fielded 25 candidates in the 2020 Irish general election, including leader Peadar Tóibín (Meath West), deputy leader Anne McCloskey (Sligo-Leitrim) and a number of sitting local councillors.[54] Tóibín was the only successful candidate. As Tóibín was not invited to participate in a televised debate alongside the leaders of other parties, the party threatened a High Court action against RTÉ. The party, however, did not proceed with the action noting that there "was not enough time to have the action heard" before the debate.[55]

In the 2020 Seanad election, Paul Lawless contested the Cultural and Educational Panel receiving 2.6% of votes.[56]

2021 Dublin Bay South Dáil by-election[edit]

Mairéad Tóibín unsuccessfully contested the 2021 Dublin Bay South by-election, coming 9th with 740 first preference votes (2.9%) on the first count, being eliminated on the fifth count.

2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election[edit]

Aontú fielded 12 candidates in the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election.[57] None of Aontú's candidates were elected, with the party coming in eighth place with 12,777 first preference votes (1.5%).[58]

2023 Northern Ireland local elections[edit]

Aontú fielded 19 candidates for the 2023 Northern Ireland local elections. None of Aontú's candidates were elected, with their incumbent Councillor in Derry City and Strabane District Council losing his seat.[59] The party came in 11th place with 6,771 first preference votes (0.9%).

2024 referendums[edit]

Aontú campaigned for No votes in the March 2024 Irish constitutional referendums. Both referendums were overwhelmingly defeated, with 67.69% of voting against the 39th amendment (on family), and 73.93% voting against the 40th referendum (on care).[60][61]

Representatives[edit]

The party has one representative, TD Peadar Tóibín, at national level (in Dáil Éireann). As of May 2023, Aontú has three sitting representatives at local level, all of which are county councillors in the Republic of Ireland.[62][63]

Election results[edit]

Dáil Éireann[edit]

Election Leader 1st pref
votes
% Seats ± Government
2020[64] Peadar Tóibín 41,575 1.9 (#8)
1 / 160
Opposition

Northern Ireland Assembly[edit]

Election Leader 1st pref
votes
% Seats ± Government
2022[65] Peadar Tóibín 12,777 1.5 (#8)
0 / 90
No seats

Westminster elections[edit]

Election Leader Votes % Seats (in NI) ±
NI UK
2019 Peadar Tóibín 9,814 1.2 (#6) <0.1
0 / 18

Local elections[edit]

Election Country Seats
contested
1st pref
votes
% Seats
2019 Northern Ireland 16 7,459 1.1
1 / 462
2019 Republic of Ireland 51 25,660 1.5
3 / 949
2023 Northern Ireland 19 6,771 0.9
0 / 462

Ógra Aontú[edit]

Aontú's youth branch, Ógra Aontú, was formed in May 2020. Membership of the branch is open to Aontú members aged between 16 and 30.[66]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The Irish word aontú is the verbal noun of aontaigh, meaning "unite", "agree", "assent". The logo also colours the letters separately, forming the Irish word for "you" (singular).[3][4][5] Party founder Peadar Tóibín when announcing its name said it means "unity and consent".[6][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hugh Linehan (18 January 2023). "Peadar Tóibín on Aontú, Sinn Féin, immigration and ambition". Inside Politics (Podcast). The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  2. ^ "aontú [Pronunciation]". Teanglann. Foras na Gaeilge. 2013. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  3. ^ Ó Dónaill, Niall (1977). "aontú". Foclóir Gaeilge–Béarla. Archived from the original on 12 March 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  4. ^ Ó Dónaill, Niall (1977). "aontaigh". Foclóir Gaeilge–Béarla. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  5. ^ "aontú [Reverse Search]". New English-Irish Dictionary. Archived from the original on 21 February 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Bray, Jennifer (28 January 2019). "Peadar Tóibín to name new political party 'Aontú'". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 29 January 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b Becton, Gavan (29 January 2019). "Party started early for Tóibín". Meath Chronicle. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b Doyle, Kevin (28 January 2019). "Peadar Toibin reveals his new political party will be named Aontú". Independent.ie. Archived from the original on 29 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Electoral Commission - Political party registration - Current applications". Electoral Commission Electoral Commission. 28 January 2019. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
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  11. ^ a b Michael Gallagher (2021). "The Results Analysed: The Definitive End of the Traditional Party System?". In Michael Gallagher; Michael Marsh; Theresa Reidy (eds.). How Ireland Voted 2020: The End of an Era. Springer Nature. p. 180. ISBN 9783030664053.
  12. ^ Finn, Christina (21 November 2018). "Tóibín signs up two members to his new 'Euro-critical party' which aims to protect 'all human life'". TheJournal.ie. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
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  23. ^ McDermott, Stephen (26 November 2020). "SIPO 'very concerned' about failure of Aontú and Renua to submit statements of their annual accounts". TheJournal.ie. Archived from the original on 26 November 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
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  25. ^ Casey, Ann (16 May 2022). "Tóibín targeting council seats after 'successful' NI election campaign". Meath Chronicle. Retrieved 14 July 2023. Deputy Tóibín said Aontú is left of centre economically and socially conservative
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  30. ^ a b "Ireland's new pro-life party faces a critical test". Catholic Herald. 12 December 2019. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019. Aontú leans undeniably left on issues like economics, migration and climate change. [..] for a genuinely conservative option [..] Aontú is a welcome start
  31. ^ Mattha Busby (4 May 2019). "Northern Ireland local election counts continue after DUP gains". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 May 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021. the newly formed anti-abortion party Aontu to be elected
  32. ^ "Profile: Peadar Tóibín". The Phoenix. 14 July 2023. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  33. ^ Howlin, Gerald (10 April 2019). "New politics of nativism is just the bitter defence of a few bleak acres". The Irish Examiner. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  34. ^ Weeks, Liam (14 April 2019). "Rising immigration concerns won't open the door for Aontu". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  35. ^ "Immigration". Aontú. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  36. ^ Young, Connla (19 August 2021). "North ready to do what it can for Afghan refugees". The Irish News. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  37. ^ Finn, Christina (21 November 2018). "Tóibín signs up two members to his new 'Euro-critical party' which aims to protect 'all human life'". TheJournal.ie. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  38. ^ a b c "Aontu Policy on Workers Rights". aontu.ie. 24 January 2020. Archived from the original on 9 February 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  39. ^ "Aontu Policy on Housing". Aontu. 24 January 2020. Archived from the original on 9 February 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020. If the state invested €2.2 billion in capital spending a year the 10,000 housing units per year objective of the Oireachtas Housing Committee could be surpassed.
  40. ^ Finn, Christina (8 October 2021). "Rent freeze, free transport, more homes: Here's what other parties say they would do if in power". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  41. ^ Fitzgerald, Cormac (7 December 2018). "Cavan councillor quits Fianna Fáil to join Peadar Tóibín's new party". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  42. ^ "Aontú: Emmet Doyle to replace Dr Anne McCloskey on council". BBC News. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  43. ^ Cross, Gareth (27 July 2019). "Councillor Denise Mullen leaves SDLP over party's stance on abortion". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  44. ^ "Jim Codd". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
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  46. ^ Editorial comment (14 September 2019). "Aontú's mantra is change but their policies seem like more of the same". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  47. ^ Kelly, Michael (5 December 2019). "Aontú can be proud of outpolling well-funded establishment parties". The Irish Catholic.
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External links[edit]