Social Democrats (Ireland)

The Social Democrats (Irish: Daonlathaigh Shóisialta[8]) 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.

Social Democrats

Daonlathaigh Shóisialta
LeadersCatherine Murphy TD
Róisín Shortall TD
General SecretaryBrian Sheehan[1]
ChairpersonMorgan Nolan[2]
Vice-chairEvie Nevin[2]
Founded15 July 2015 (2015-07-15)
Membership~ 1,400 [3]
IdeologySocial democracy[4]
Nordic model[5]
Political positionCentre-left[6][7]
Dáil Éireann
2 / 158
Seanad Éireann
0 / 60
European Parliament
0 / 13
Local government
19 / 949


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.[9] 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.[10]

In May 2016, the party formed a technical group within the Dáil with the Green Party.[11][12]

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".[13] On 2 February 2017, he joined Fianna Fáil and later became the party's Brexit spokesman.[14]

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).[15][16][17] In February 2018, June Murphy (Cork County Council) joined the party.

In May 2019 the party saw 19 Councillors elected out of 58 candidates in its first local elections.

In November 2019 the party contested 3 of the 4 by elections caused by the election of Irish TDs to the European Parliament.

Ideology and policies

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.[18][19][20]

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[21]

It supports Irish membership of the European Union. The party is also in favour of a directly elected mayor of Dublin.[22]

Health policies

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. Sláintecare was developed as the result of a cross-Party Oireachtas Committee chaired by Róisín Shortall, which sought to examine the issue of healthcare in Ireland. The report was published in May 2017 and marked the first time cross-party consensus was achieved on a new model of healthcare in Ireland.[23] 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.[24]

Social policies

The Social Democrats have published legislation on equal access and non-religious discrimination in schools,[25] extended unpaid parental leave[26] and greater minimum notice periods for residential tenancies.[27] The party called for a yes vote in the Referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment on 25 May 2018.[28]


The Social Democrats hold a strong anti-corruption stance. The party has called for the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency in Ireland to tackle white-collar crime and corruption in the corporate world and political spheres.[29][30]

Election results

Dáil Éireann

Election Seats won ± Position First Pref votes % Government Leader
3 / 158
3 7th 64,094 3.0% Opposition Stephen Donnelly (until September 2016), Catherine Murphy, and Róisín Shortall

Local elections

Election Seats won ± First-pref. votes %
2019 19 19 39,644 2.28%

European Parliament

Election Seats won ± First-pref. votes % Leader
0 / 13
- 20,331 1.2% Catherine Murphy
Róisín Shortall

2019 local and European elections

The Social Democrats contested their first European Parliament elections in May 2019, with Councillor Gary Gannon running for election in the Dublin constituency.[31] Gannon received 5.6% of the first-preference votes, finishing 6th out of 19 candidates in the first count. He was eliminated on the 14th count.

The party also contested their first local elections in May 2019. The Social Democrats put forward 58 candidates for seats on local councils. 55% of the candidates were women, making it the second highest percentage of female candidates put forward among all political parties.[32] 19 of the 58 candidates were elected, more than trebling the party's representation in local government.[33]

2016 general election candidates

The party received 3% of first preference votes nationally with its three leaders re-elected on the first count in their respective constituencies.[34]

     Denotes candidates elected

Constituency Candidate % Votes Notes [35]
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


Dáil Éireann

Name Constituency
Catherine Murphy Kildare North
Róisín Shortall Dublin North-West

Local government

Name Local Authority LEA
Holly McKeever Cairns Cork County Council Bantry–West Cork
Patricia Roe Dublin City Council Artane–Whitehall
Mary Callaghan Dublin City Council Ballymun–Finglas
Gary Gannon Dublin City Council Cabra–Glasnevin
Catherine Stocker Dublin City Council Clontarf
Tara Deacy Dublin City Council Kimmage–Rathmines
Dave Quinn Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council Dún Laoghaire
Cian O'Callaghan Fingal County Council Howth–Malahide
Paul Mulville Fingal County Council Rush–Lusk
Owen Hanley Galway City Council Galway City East
Aidan Farrelly Kildare County Council Clane
Nuala Killeen Kildare County Council Leixlip
Bill Clear Kildare County Council Naas
Chris Pender Kildare County Council Newbridge
Elisa O'Donovan Limerick City and County Council Limerick City West
Ronan Moore Meath County Council Trim
Clare Claffey Offaly County Council Birr
Carly Bailey South Dublin County Council Rathfarnham–Templeogue
Jennifer Whitmore Wicklow County Council Greystones


  1. @SocDems (22 September 2016). "Brian Sheehan is appointed as the Social Democrats' first General Secretary" (Tweet). Retrieved 22 September 2016 via Twitter.
  2. "About us - Social Democrats". Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  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 (19 July 2015). "We have a Swede dream for the future of Ireland". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  6. "Ireland". Europe Elects.
  7. "Social Democrats latest new Irish party ahead of uncertain elections". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  8. 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)
  9. "Roisin Shortall resigns as junior health minister". RTÉ News. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  10. "Social Democrats reveal five election candidates". 4 August 2015.
  12. Social Democrats (30 May 2016). "We can confirm we have entered into a Technical Arrangement (Tech Group) with @greenparty_ie for this Dáil". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  13. "'Some partnerships simply don't work' - Stephen Donnelly quits Social Democrats in major blow for party". 5 September 2016.
  14. Pat Leahy (2 February 2017). "Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly to join Fianna Fáil, party says". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  15. "Cork County Councillor Joe Harris joins the Social Democrats". 28 February 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  16. "South Dublin County Councillor Dermot Looney joins the Social Democrats". Social Democrats (Ireland). 8 June 2017. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  17. "Councillor Paul Mulville joins the Social Democrats". Social Democrats (Ireland). 24 August 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  18. "Newly-formed Social Democrats pledge to abolish water charges". RTÉ News. 15 July 2015.
  19. "Ireland's newest political party will abolish water charges and repeal the 8th". 15 July 2015.
  20. "New Social Democrats group pledge to abolish water charges and repeal the Eighth Amendment". Irish Independent. 15 July 2015.
  21. "Policies". Social Democrats website. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  23. Oireachtas, Houses of the (30 May 2017). "Future of Healthcare Committee publishes Sláintecare – a plan to radically transform Irish healthcare – 30 May 2017, 11.46 – Houses of the Oireachtas". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  24. Our plan for healthcare. Social Democrats (Ireland) official website. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  25. "Social Democrats Call for End to Religious Discrimination in Schools". Social Democrats. 19 November 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  26. "SocDems' bill to increase unpaid parental leave goes to final stage in Dáil". Social Democrats. 12 June 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  27. "Social Democrats welcome cross-party support for renters' rights Bill". Social Democrats. 23 January 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  28. "Soc Dems 'Yes for Repeal' referendum campaign launches in Dublin, Cork & Galway". Social Democrats. 22 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  29. McGee, Harry. "Social Democrats propose a new anti-corruption agency". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  30. "Tackling Corruption". Social Democrats. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  31. "Cllr Gary Gannon to contest Dublin seat in Euro Elections". Social Democrats. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  32. Kavanagh, Adrian (16 October 2018). "Female candidates contesting the 2019 Local Elections". Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  33. Bray, Jennifer (26 May 2019). "Social Democrats 'reasonably happy' with the party's performance". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  34. Election 2016, RTÉ News, 4 March 2016
  35. Our People,
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