With days to go before its first local election in the 26 Counties, Aontú’s first elected councillor, Dr Anne McCloskey, looks at a critical point in the establishment of Ireland’s newest republican political party.
In the recent local government elections, we in Aontú have made history in a small but, we believe, significant way.
Our party did not exist a mere three months ago. We have no money, no staff, no premises, no electoral machine. Our only resource is a small band of committed and enthusiastic volunteers, and a plan.
Yet we managed to have one councillor elected in my hometown of Derry and to garner between six and seven percent of all first preference votes in the constituencies where we fielded candidates.
In the Local Government Elections in the south, on May 23, we will offer candidates across the country, and consolidate and grow on this start.
There is an expression in the Irish language, “Tús maith, leath na h-oibre-a good start is half the job done!
It was not by accident that our party was launched in the city of Belfast where, in 1798, the Declaration of the United Irishmen was signed on the Cave Hill, seeking to unite Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter (that list would be much longer today!) in the common name of Irishmen.
We in Aontú are Irish Republicans, in this proud tradition, with a workable blueprint for a way in which we can coexist on this beautiful island which we all rightly call home, irrespective of identity, creed, race or all the other attributes by which we define our differences. We must make common cause to celebrate our shared humanity.
Because Aontú insists that without the right to life itself, all other rights are irrelevant, commentators have been trying to box us into being merely a pro-life (anti-“choice,” even) pressure group.
We do certainly believe in the inherent dignity of all human life, regardless of age, ability, gender “wantedness” or indeed any other external factors.
We do believe that women’s progress should not come at the expense of her maternity, or her children.
We believe that an analysis which says that men are not equal partners and co-creators of human life, is bad for women, men, children and wider society.
We believe that women in pregnancy crisis should be supported and nurtured, rather than offered, or as happens too often, coerced into choices which end their child’s life.
We believe in freedom of conscience and expression, although given the vitriol we received on social media and the destruction and defacement of election posters and the like in the recent campaign, it seems that the equality and respect promulgated by others only extends to those who share their vision.
Change must happen. After a century of partition, and with the six-county state suffering from the political equivalent of “locked-in syndrome,” people are restless for new ideas. The shift in politics in the recent poll shows this.
The charade which passes for political discourse in the southern state is a national embarrassment.
While ordinary people are paying for the bank-bailout, agreed by the same political elite who still wield power, the politicians fight culture wars which have little relevance to most people, while homelessness, the failure of the health service and the sale of our natural and historical resources to the highest foreign bidder goes unchecked.
Aontú stands for Life, Unity and Economic Justice. We have a vision for all the people of Ireland. I am proud and honoured to be the first elected representative of this new party.
Find out more on Aontu.ie, or on our Facebook page. Tús maith deanta-now let’s get on with the work of reclaiming our country -for all of us.