Debate over ‘sustainable’ immigration needed, says Tóibín

More than 300 attend national launch of Aontú party in Ballyfermot

The leader of Ireland's newest political party and former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has said immigration into the country needs to be managed at a sustainable level.

Mr Tóibín was speaking at the national launch of his new party, Aontú, in Ballyfermot, south Dublin on Saturday.

“There is no doubt there is a growing unease and concern among many people in Ireland around the issue of immigration,” Mr Tóibín said.

“Our view is very simple, there needs to be sustainable levels of immigration in this country, it needs to be managed,” he told The Irish Times.

“There needs to be some link between the capacity of the country and the numbers of people coming in, if there’s not there’s going to be hardship for indigenous and newcomers alike,” he said.

Aontú formed three months ago, following Mr Tóibín’s resignation from Sinn Féin last year, over his opposition to the party’s stance in support of abortion. The new party plan to run up to 70 candidates in the local elections next month, with 65 selected to date.

The all-island party is contesting council elections in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The current political parties were “running away” from immigration as a topic, Mr Tóibín said. “I wouldn’t second guess or question the people that are asking these questions . . . what I would say is, let’s have a real and honest debate around this,” he said.

More than 300 people attended the party’s national launch on Saturday, which kicked off with a performance of traditional Irish music, including a harp and fiddle player.


Around half of those who had signed up to the new party had not been involved in politics previously, Mr Tóibín said. He estimated 20 per cent of members were former Fianna Fáil supporters, 20 per cent were previously Sinn Féin members, with the remainder from other parties such as the SDLP.

Callum Sinnott (16) from Wexford, was one young face among the crowd attending the launch.

“This is my first involvement in a political party . . . I felt there wasn’t enough political representation for the youth in Ireland, and I felt Aontú was a good starting place,” he said.

Elizabeth and Joe Tuite were parents with three young children who attended the event.

Their youngest, nine months old, is named Peadar, which Joe insisted was a “coincidence.”

The pair joined the party to have “some representation in parliament from a pro-life party, because there’s nobody that we could vote for at the minute,” Joe says.

“At the minute everybody within their own parties are being railroaded to go with their party, or get out, that’s not democracy, you need to have freedom of speech.” Elizabeth said.

Aontú would not go the way of Renua, a previous fledgling party set up by Lucinda Creighton, after she left Fine Gael over her opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. The party lost all three of its sitting TDs during its first general election in 2016.

“We are radically different to Renua, first of all we are a 32 county party . . . also we’re focusing on the bread and butter issues that are affecting people every day,” Mr Tóibín said.

Across the road from the event two Ballyfermot residents were sitting in their front garden, enjoying the sunshine, with a speaker loudly playing Irish rebel songs. As speeches got underway at the event, those closer to the door could just about hear the tune of Come Out Ye Black and Tans in the background.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times