Election 2019

Election 2019: Aontú criticises Sinn Féin over Irish language act

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibin
Image caption Aontú leader Peadar Tóibin is a former member of Sinn Féin

Aontú has criticised Sinn Féin for refusing to return to Stormont until there is an Irish Language Act.

Launching its election manifesto, party leader Peadar Tóibin said the language was an important issue but it was "being used to hold so many other really important issues hostage".

Aontú is standing seven candidates in the general election.

The party has a strong anti-abortion policy and is opposed to changes to the law which are being introduced.

Asked if Sinn Féin was right to refuse to return to Stormont without the language issue being resolved, Mr Tóibin said "There are bread and butter, life and death concerns that are consuming the people of the north on a daily basis.

"It is wrong to stop development or progress in those issues because of the Irish language act.

"You cannot be a left-wing political party and allow for your communities to slide into poverty."

Mr Tóibin is a former Sinn Féin TD (member of the Irish Parliament), who left after that party supported changing the law in the Republic of Ireland to make abortion much more widely available.

Sinn Féin now supports the right of women to have abortions "within a limited gestational period", while Aontú is opposed to abortion laws being changed.

Mr Tóibin said "We have had a political establishment that has either remained silent, or has acquiesced to the full deletion of the human right to life for every single unborn child under 28 weeks gestation.

"We have had Westminster impose legislation against the will of the people in the north of Ireland.

"Most of the polls have indicated that even those who consider themselves pro-choice or pro-abortion were against Westminster making these decisions.

"They felt, at the very least, that directly-elected representatives and people in the north of Ireland should have more of a say on this law in the north of Ireland than the MP for Islington, than the MP for Croydon or the MP for Birmingham."

Speaking rights

The party, which opposes Brexit, also says the conditions currently exist to have a referendum on Irish unity and is introducing a bill in the Dáil (lower house of the Irish Parliament) to allow MPs elected in Northern Ireland to have speaking rights in that house.

Mr Tóibin said: "If this bill passes it will mean the MPs elected at this election will have speaking rights in the Dáil in the future.

"And indeed, if and when we get Aontú MPs elected those MPs will present themselves to the Dáil and demand the rights to speak on behalf of their citizens."

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