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

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION -

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.

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