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Peadar Tóibín resigns from Sinn Féin and hints about setting up a new party

The TD was suspended from the party for six months because he voted against the abortion legislation in the Dáil.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Nov 2018

PEADAR TÓIBÍN HAS announced he is resigning from Sinn Féin, and has hinted about the setting up of a new political party.

Earlier this month, the TD was suspended from the party for six months because he voted against the abortion legislation in the Dáil. 

In a statement he said he had taken the decision “with a heavy heart”. 

“I have been a member of the party for 21 years. In that time I poured all my efforts into achieving Irish unity and economic justice.

This clearly is no longer enough. I will now help to build a new 32 County movement.

Tóibín, in his resignation letter to chief whip Aengus Ó Snodaigh, wrote that the leadership had agreed a written deal with him in November 2012 stating the party would “treat me equally and would not marginalise me due to my views on the right to life”. 

“Over 18 months ago that deal was binned unilaterally by the party. I have lost speaking rights, spokesperson positions, portfolios and have been significantly censored in my engagements with the media. These actions have prevented me from fully representing my constituents.”

Tóibín said he had raised these issues many times with leadership to try to resolve them 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 view on this one issue. For a united Ireland to be achieved, the party must be flexible, broad and inclusive. 

He said he had written to the party chair, to Ó Snodaigh and to president of the party Mary Lou McDonald two weeks ago asking whether there was a future for him in the party. 

“This email was never replied to. That may be an answer in itself.”

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House today, Tóibín said he will be travelling around the country to find people with similar views to his own, stating there is a need for a “tight organisation that can represent those views in the future”.

“We are talking about having a discussion with people around the country with similar backgrounds to myself, I am not going to be prescriptive with regards as to what will develop as a result of that, but yes I would be of the view that if you want to give that third of the population that don’t have a voice in Leinster House, an actual voice, you need a functional organisation to do that and a political party is the best way to answer that need,” he said. 

The Meath TD ruled out other TDs that submitted amendments to the proposed abortion legislation, such as Mattie McGrath, stating that there is a “broad spectrum” of backgrounds among TDs that voted No in May’s referendum. He said it would be “impossible” to fold them into one organisation. 

“That is not my intention,” he said, adding that the objectives of his proposed organisation or party will be Irish unity, economic justice and “will be about TDs not looking to keep their seats all the time – once you become prisoner of losing your damn seat then you start to become afraid about making decisions and speaking up about issues that you feel important about and swimming against the tide”.

He said he accepted the decision on the Eighth Amendment but said: 

“I also believe the 34% of the people that voted against repeal they have a right to representation in Leinster House.”

The resigning TD hit out against Fianna Fáil and said the current situation Micheáł Martin and those at the helm of the party are giving the “two fingers” to their grassroot supporters. He added that he has received a lot of phone calls from members of Fianna Fáil who are “unhappy” with the party’s direction. 

“It is not helpful politically that everyone seeks to occupy the same space at the same time. Diversity of opinion is a pressure valve politically and that is what I am looking to do here,” he added. 

“The problem with Irish politics at the moment – there is no alternative,” said Tóibín.

He said he did not want to take shots at Sinn Féin, but said there were issues within the party that need to be sorted out. 

“If they don’t resolve them these issues will continue into the future,” he said, adding that it was political self harm not to allow conscientious voting. 

Reacting to the resignation, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Tóibín was “a valued member of  the party”.

She said Sinn Féin is home to a diversity of views and there is an opportunity to debate and vote on policies at the party 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.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

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