Aontú is a bright light in an otherwise dull political Irish landscape

Aontú is a bright light in an otherwise dull political Irish landscape Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín
After all, next to being pro-life, being nationalist-minded is probably the next biggest mortal sin in Irish politics, writes Pól Ó Muirí


If I mention the name, Peadar Tóibín, I am sure that the words ‘pro-life’ pop into your head. If Mr Tóibín has one Unique Selling Point at the moment: it is that he had a number of run ins with his former party, Sinn Féin, in refusing to endorse their aggressive pro-abortion stance. He campaigned to retain the Eighth Amendment against party policy and was easily one of a very small number of TDs from any party who did so vocally. Consequently, he has left Sinn Féin and has launched a new all-Ireland party this year.

His social media indicates that he has certainly been busy in that arena. He unveiled the new name while on a trip to Belfast, telling local media: “Belfast was the birth place of the United Irishmen who fought for a free, independent and pluralist Ireland for Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. In 30 minutes we will launch our new name and our vision in the same city.”

A staunch supporter of the Irish language, he has called the new party Aontú which means ‘agreement’, ‘assent’ and ‘unity’. It is no easy task to capture the ‘vision thing’ in one word but Mr Tóibín’s hope will be that the single word of Irish might be enough to distinguish him from rivals in a very crowded field.


There have been many public meetings over recent weeks too, in different counties, all with the same message, that this party is going to be something new and different. Added to that, there have been announcements about new cumainn being founded as well as pleas for funding to help the fledging movement.

It is all somewhat reminiscent of the last series of the The West Wing when Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) takes presidential hopeful, Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) under his wing and shepherds him from meeting to meeting in the hope of gathering support and gaining momentum for a run at the White House.

Can Peadar be the rock on which Aontú is built? Can a party which is nationalist and pro-life reach the public effectively and survive media scrutiny?

Mr Tóibín’s pro-life stance may well garner him protest votes, north and south, from more established parties but will it be enough for him to get the ‘big mo’? Where is the evidence that Irish pro-life voters really, really, burn with the fire of righteous indignation and moral defiance after the referendum result? Will they rally to Aontú in numbers? Are there not enough examples in recent history to show that Irish voters will happily stand with politicians and their policies simply because they wear the same county jersey?

Perhaps just as bad, Aontú’s nationalist agenda will also receive a hostile reception amongst many in the media. After all, next to being pro-life, being nationalist-minded is probably the next biggest mortal sin in Irish politics. Contemporary Ireland is cosmopolitan, open, forward-looking. Flag-huggers will drag us all back to dark times, we are told.

Aontú have one ray of hope perhaps and that is that, uniquely, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil lost the last general election. Admittedly, Fine Gael did not lose it as badly as Fianna Fáil but lose it they did. The current government is a minority one, propped up by a collection of irascible independents and by the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, who seem to have forgotten what the role of being in opposition is all about. It is the wobbliest of three-legged stools.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny was able to hand on the office of Taoiseach to Leo Varadkar and Mr Varadkar finds himself as Taoiseach without ever having led his party in a general election. Surprisingly for a politician who seems to be so sure of himself, Mr Varadkar is in no rush to find out what the voters really think about him and his policies.

Oddly, while Mr Tóibín cannot be sure that his pro-life stance will attract voters, Mr Varadkar cannot be sure that his pro-abortion stance will attract them either. Somewhere, deep in Fine Gael’s psyche there must be the memory that the previous Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, threw his lot in with the pro-abortion lobby and lost a general election. If Fine Gael really believe that the pro-abortion vote in the last referendum will translate into seats, then why have they not called an election by now?

In addition, the worry for all parties, old and established; small and new, will be that disillusion with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will result in the electorate shattering further and simply voting for local, independent candidates.

The odds are certainly against Mr Tóibín and Aontú. Still, if it is any comfort Santos did actually win. But that is television not real life. Right?