Social Democrats (Ireland)

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Social Democrats

Daonlathaigh Shóisialta
LeadersCatherine Murphy TD
Róisín Shortall TD
General SecretaryBrian Sheehan[1]
ChairpersonJoe O'Connor[2]
Founded15 July 2015 (2015-07-15)
Membership~ 1,000 [3]
IdeologySocial democracy[4]
Nordic model[5]
Political positionCentre-left[6]
Dáil Éireann
2 / 158
Seanad Éireann
0 / 60
Local government
7 / 949
Social Democrats party leaders, Róisín Shortall (left) and Catherine Murphy (right).

The Social Democrats (Irish: Daonlathaigh Shóisialta[7]) is a political party in Ireland. The party was launched on 15 July 2015 by three independent TDs, Stephen Donnelly, Catherine Murphy, and Róisín Shortall.


The Social Democrats was established with a co-leadership arrangement between its three founding members. Róisín Shortall is a former Labour Party TD and former Minister of State for Primary Care. She resigned from the role and from Labour in September 2012, citing lack of support and the lack of an explanation from then-Minister for Health James Reilly concerning his controversial decision to locate a new primary care centre in his own constituency.[8] Catherine Murphy was successively a member of the Workers' Party, Democratic Left and the Labour Party before being elected as an independent TD in 2005. She became widely known for her work as a TD in 2014, when she revealed irregularities within the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, a bad bank, in its dealings with businessman Denis O'Brien. Stephen Donnelly first entered politics as an independent TD in the 2011 general election, having previously worked as a consultant for McKinsey and Company. Both Murphy and Donnelly were members of the Technical Group in the 31st Dáil, with Murphy having served as its Chief Whip.

The party ran fourteen candidates in the 2016 general election, including its three incumbent TDs, former Labour Party Senator James Heffernan, and county councillors Gary Gannon and Cian O'Callaghan.[9]

In May 2016, the party formed a technical group within the Dáil with the Green Party.[10][11]

On 5 September 2016, Stephen Donnelly resigned as joint leader and left the party, stating that he was doing so “with great sadness, having vested so much together with my parliamentary colleagues, Catherine and Roisin, a small core team and many volunteers across the country, into the establishment of the Social Democrats over the last 20 months”, but referring to his relationship with his fellow leaders, that "some partnerships simply don't work".[12] On 2 February 2017, he joined Fianna Fáil and later became the party's Brexit spokesman.[13]

Through 2017, the Social Democrats recruited several sitting county councillors, including Jennifer Whitmore (Wicklow County Council), Joe Harris (Cork County Council), Dermot Looney (South Dublin County Council), and Paul Mulville (Fingal County Council).[14][15][16] In February 2018, June Murphy (Cork County Council) joined the party.


At the party's launch, its three TDs stated their support for the Nordic model of social democracy, backed the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the Official Secrets Act, and stated their opposition to domestic water charges.[17][18][19]

The party's manifesto for the 2016 general election listed commitments to "three core areas":

  • Policies that support a healthy, inclusive and progressive society
  • Policies that ensure a strong, stable and vibrant economy, and support Ireland’s SMEs with the same vigour that is applied to the multinational sector
  • Policies that make politics and government more transparent and responsive to public, rather than party need[20]

It supports Irish membership of the European Union. The party is also in favour of a directly elected mayor of Dublin.[21]

One of the core policies put forward by the party is that of Sláintecare, an Irish national health service. Sláintecare is a fully costed plan for a universal, single-tier public health service that would join up health and social care in the Republic of Ireland. The Sláintecare policy plan also includes (but is not limited to): a legal entitlement to homecare packages for older people, significantly reducing prescription charges and lowering costs for medicines, providing access to basic procedures at a local level, and improved funding for mental health, including counselling, community programmes, and adult mental health teams.[22]

Election results[edit]

Dáil Éireann[edit]

Election Seats won ± Position First Pref votes % Government Leader
3 / 158
Increase3 Increase7th 64,094 3.0% Opposition Stephen Donnelly (until September 2016), Catherine Murphy, and Róisín Shortall

2016 general election candidates[edit]

The party received 3% of first preference votes nationally with its three leaders re-elected on the first count in their respective constituencies.[23]

     Denotes candidates elected

Constituency Candidate % Votes Notes [24]
Cork East Ken Curtin 2.6
Dublin Bay North Cian O’Callaghan 5.2 Fingal County Councillor
Dublin Bay South Glenna Lynch 6.7
Dublin Central Gary Gannon 9.7 Dublin City Councillor
Dublin Mid-West Anne-Marie McNally 6.1
Dublin North-West Róisín Shortall 28.5 TD
Dublin South-Central Liam Coyne 5.7
Galway West Niall Ó Tuathail 5.38
Kildare North Catherine Murphy 22.7 TD
Limerick City Sarah Jane Hennelly 5.9
Limerick County James Heffernan 7.4 Senator
Meath East Aisling O’Neill 4.1
Wexford Leonard Kelly 2.3
Wicklow Stephen Donnelly 20.9 TD


  1. ^ @SocDems (22 September 2016). "Brian Sheehan is appointed as the Social Democrats' first General Secretary" (Tweet). Retrieved 22 September 2016 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ "Roscommon native elected chairman of Social Democrats". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  3. ^ Coalition could be the next big issue for the Social Democrats. The Irish Times. Author - Harry McGee. Published 27 January 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  4. ^ Nordsieck, Wolfram (2016). "Ireland". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  5. ^ Catherine Murphy (2015-07-19). "We have a Swede dream for the future of Ireland". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  6. ^ "Social Democrats latest new Irish party ahead of uncertain elections". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  7. ^ Lucht na heite clé radacaí chun tosaigh ar Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre den chéad uair Archived 2016-03-06 at the Wayback Machine, (in Irish)
  8. ^ "Roisin Shortall resigns as junior health minister". RTÉ News. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Social Democrats reveal five election candidates". 4 August 2015.
  10. ^[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Social Democrats (2016-05-30). "We can confirm we have entered into a Technical Arrangement (Tech Group) with @greenparty_ie for this Dáil". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  12. ^ "'Some partnerships simply don't work' - Stephen Donnelly quits Social Democrats in major blow for party". 5 September 2016.
  13. ^ Pat Leahy (2017-02-02). "Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly to join Fianna Fáil, party says". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  14. ^ "Cork County Councillor Joe Harris joins the Social Democrats". 28 February 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  15. ^ "South Dublin County Councillor Dermot Looney joins the Social Democrats". Social Democrats (Ireland). 8 June 2017. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Councillor Paul Mulville joins the Social Democrats". Social Democrats (Ireland). 24 August 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Newly-formed Social Democrats pledge to abolish water charges". RTÉ News. 15 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Ireland's newest political party will abolish water charges and repeal the 8th". 15 July 2015.
  19. ^ "New Social Democrats group pledge to abolish water charges and repeal the Eighth Amendment". Irish Independent. 15 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Policies". Social Democrats website. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  21. ^[UNIQID]
  22. ^ Our plan for healthcare. Social Democrats (Ireland) official website. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  23. ^ Election 2016, RTÉ News, 4th March 2016
  24. ^ Our People,

External links[edit]