The Ard Comhairle of Aontú at Deputy Peadar Tóibín's Navan office last weekend.

Dungannon councillor leaves SDLP for Tóibín's Aontú

An SDLP councillor has quit her party to join Deputy Peadar Tóibín's fledgling party, Aontú.  Dungannon Cllr Denise Mullen has resigned from the SDLP to join the new all-island party. Cllr Mullen has been a councillor in on the Mid Ulster Council for over five years.
Peadar Tóibín TD, leader of Aontú has said: “We are delighted that Denise has joined our new political movement. Denise has been a phenomenally active public representative for the people of Dungannon. Just last May the people of Dungannon reconfirmed their trust in Denise by re-electing her as their councillor.
"Denise has also been to the fore in fighting for the rights of victims of state collusion. Denise Mullen grew up in the Moy in a staunch Civil Rights family. Her father Dennis Mullen tragically paid for his Civil Rights activism with his life when he was murdered by the British state/UVF Glenanne Gang in 1975. Denise has always pursued justice for her family and all the other families affected with determination and vigour. Denise has a quality that is rare in Irish politics. Denise is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She has courage and conviction. She will be a great addition to our elected team." 
Denise Mullen added stated: “I am delighted that I have made the decision. Like so many people, I have become angered and disillusioned by the radical change in direction of the SDLP leadership in recent times. The SDLP leadership no longer represent the party grassroots. Issues such as Irish unity, economic justice and the right to life are being dropped or seriously changed. The leadership of the SDLP is now firmly pro-abortion. That’s not good enough for me or many others.  
"I have been impressed by the serious growth of Aontú in just six months throughout Ireland. Aontú has 2,000 members, 60 cumainn and elected representatives from Derry to Wexford. We will build here in Fermanagh-South Tyrone and we will seriously challenge the political establishment in the next Stormont elections. I would encourage the many people within Sinn Féin and the SDLP who are sick and tired of the changes in direction undertaken by their leadership to get off the fence and help build a new political movement throughout Ireland."

New deputy leader

Last weekend, at a meeting of the party’s Ard Chomhairle in Navan, Dr Anne McCloskey was elected deputy leader of Aontú. The Derry native was elected to Derry and Strabane Council for the Ballyarnett electoral area in May’s local elections and has been a driving force for Aontú in the north and across the country.
Deputy Toibin said:  “Dr McCloskey has long served her community as a GP and as a political campaigner. She is an Irish republican in the truest sense of the term. Following in the footsteps of the United Irish movement, Dr McCloskey is dedicated to achieving Irish unity where the self-determination of the Irish people is realised and where genuine pluralism and a national democracy flourish.”
“Dr McCloskey has been to the fore in projecting a vision of compassion and care for mothers and babies. An adherent of a rights-based society, Dr McCloskey is a committed defender of the right to life of everyone, believing that without the right to life, all other rights are gravely undermined.
“In recent days, Dr McCloskey has led the charge against the British Parliament’s attempts to ride roughshod over the rights of people in the north of Ireland to determine their own laws. Unlike Sinn Féin and the SDLP, Dr McCloskey and Aontú have stood firm to defend the principle of Irish self-determination, believing that no laws in Ireland, north or south, should be determined by British lords, baronesses or MPs.
"Cherishing all the children of the nation equally is at the heart of Dr McCloskey’s outlook and politics, directly shaping her stalwart opposition to the imposition of the extreme British Abortion Act in the north."

Cavan-Monaghan candidate

Last week, Cllr Sarah O’Reilly was selected to contest the next general election on behalf of Aontú in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. 

Her party leader said: “Cllr O’Reilly plays a hugely active role in her community and is involved in every facet of community life in her area and further afield. Cllr O’Reilly topped the poll in Bailieborough-Cootehill in an outstanding performance. Cavan Monaghan is a constituency that has suffered massively from Fine Gael’s over concentration on Dublin and its ignoring of the all Ireland economy and the needs of border counties. These are core issues for Aontú and Cllr Sarah O’Reilly.

“Aontú received just under 3,000 votes in the local election in this constituency despite only contesting half of the LEAs. We have a fantastic opportunity to challenge the establishment parties here. If you are tired of traveling on substandard roads to a job in Dublin every day, if you are tired of working your farm for half the average industrial wage, if you believe that a balance approached to infrastructure and enterprise development is a baseline right then I would ask you to send the loudest message possible to the FF/ FG government that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Get behind the campaign to get Cllr O’Reilly elected to the Dáil.”

Cllr O’Reilly focused her speech on the government’s failures to safeguard the interests of Cavan-Monaghan and rural Ireland generally. Highlighting government failings with Monaghan Hospital, the North South Interconnector and transport services for Monaghan and Cavan, government abandonment of local enterprise for multinational corporations and the threats faced by farming communities, including the EU-Mercosur deal, Cllr O’Reilly outlined her determination to "stand for the voices of ordinary people to hold Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to account."