Ireland’s newest political party had its beginnings this week, at a gathering at the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone. The party, ‘Voice of the People’ has begun from the grassroots of the Athlone Anti-Household Charge committee. The committee which was formed around a year ago has now made the move into politics, and plans to contest elections in Westmeath, Longford and South Roscommon.
The PRO of the new party is John McNamara, who was the Chairman of Longford/Westmeath Sinn Fein before being expelled from the party early in January. It is not clear why he was expelled, but he has had very high profile appearances in the media over the past eighteen months. He is also an engineer and a former army officer.
Among the other active members of the new party are Gordon Hudson, founder of the Athlone Anti-Household charge committee, and his wife, Geraldine Hudson. The current Chairman of the new party is Peadar Doyle, and Treasurer is Ann Heneghan, both of whom are veteran members of the original committee. A new member, Ernie Draper was chosen on the night as the party’s secretary.
“We need to get up and visit council chambers and listen to people’s ideas, and what I would suggest is if this will be a party, is that we all have to be full members and listen to each other,” said Mr. McNamara.
The small group of less than twenty members chose and voted for the name ‘Voice of the People’ (which was suggested by Gordon Hudson) against some other names.
Mayor of Athlone, Jim Henson was a surprise attendee at the gathering, but he said that he was there merely to wish the new group good wishes, and that he intended to remain in the Labour party.
“I’m here because I respect people at the top table, and Gordon, and politics is born from anger and community development, and I want to wish ye the very best of luck,” said Mayor Henson. “It’s no harm, and the more parties that are borne the better, and it’s better for democracy, and it’s easy to say things are wrong. Everybody can see what’s wrong, and everybody’s looking for answers. I never missed a public meeting belonging to any party, because the day you stop learning, is the day you stay in bed, so anything for local democracy I will support.”