The brother of the late Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness could stand for election for a new republican party which will have a pro-life emphasis, it is claimed.
Peadar Tóibín, the TD for Meath West, resigned from Sinn Fein last month and is holding public meetings across the island to raise support for his new party, which has not yet been given a name.
He is to hold a public meeting in Maghera, Co Londonderry on Thursday to test support in NI.
“I am speaking to a lot of people from a nationalist background and they are saying they don’t have anyone to vote for anymore,” he said. “Even some nationalists have said to me... they are voting for the DUP at the moment.”
He has been in Sinn Fein for 21 years, eight as a TD, and has been increasingly at odds with the party’s liberalising stance on abortion.
“The government in the south has deleted all its protections [for the unborn] and this is going to continue in Northern Ireland; Sinn Fein has stated that the ‘north is next’. And I know a lot of people from the north of Ireland don’t want the north to be next.”
His organisation is already working with Protestants, he said, because “we are at one in our views on this issue”.
The TD is talking to between 10 and 15 elected representatives across three parties in NI who are considering joining him, he said. Former Sinn Fein MLA Francis Brolly and his wife and former Sinn Fein councillor Anne Brolly are involved, he said, as is GP Anne McCloskey, who stood as an independent in the last Stormont Election, and Declan McGuinness, brother of the late Deputy First Minister Martin. “He does not want to trade on his brother’s name, he wants to trade on his own name.”
But Declan is interested in standing for election: “I think he has a stated interest and we would be proud to have him stand, absolutely. What we would be looking to do is to build activist groups around the country first so that the selection process can happen fairly shortly.”
He estimates at least 30-40% of Sinn Fein voters in NI have difficulty with the party’s stance on abortion, while in the south it would be a “healthy third”.
However his party will have a free vote on the issue - and on same sex marriage.
There are plenty of Protestants, specifically from the Church of Ireland joining his party, he says, aiming for “100% pluralism”.
But he is not sure the time is right for southern Orangemen to be allowed to parade in their own capital, saying there is “a broken relationship” with the order which requires work to be fixed, he added.
Mr Tóibín has a strong belief that injustices against Catholics in NI were the cause of the Troubles, a view he says will not be imposed on party members, however.
He adds that the state, loyalism and republicans carried out actions that were “wrong” and volunteers that the Kingsmills Massacre of ten Protestant civilians by the IRA was “shocking unbelieveable, disgraceful and unforgiveable”.