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Social Democrats

Ireland's newest political party will abolish water charges and repeal the 8th

The Social Democrats launched in Dublin today. Here’s what we know so far…

Updated 11.35am

1127 New Political Parties Sam Boal Sam Boal

A NEW POLITICAL party called the Social Democrats has been launched by three independent TDs this morning.

A formal launch by independent TDs Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow), Catherine Murphy (Kildare North) and Róisín Shortall (Dublin North-West) took place in Dublin with the new party pledging to abolish water charges and repeal the 8th Amendment.

The party will have a “shared leadership” in the lead-up to the general election with a new leader to be voted on by its parliamentary party after that election.

Donnelly said that in the interim decisions will be made by consensus but added that where there is an impasse there will be a vote of the three founding members.

Launching the party today, he said:

The Irish people deserve more than this and are demanding more than this. New vision, fresh ideas, better approaches. This is what needs to be put in place and ultimately that is what the Social Democrats and today is about.

Independent Dublin city councillor Gary Gannon is among those involved with the new party as is former Fingal lord mayor Cian O’Callaghan.

The party said today that it has made no formal approaches to elected representatives about joining but hopes to hold talks in the coming weeks.

Donnelly said there had been discussions with independent senator Katherine Zappone but said she had done “the right thing” by deciding to run as an independent in Dublin South-West.

Shortall said the party hopes to run as many candidates as possible at the next general election.

What about the policies?

Among the Social Democrats’ priorities are to reduce bankruptcy to one year, improve the mortgage-to-rent scheme and end zero-hour contracts for workers.

Speaking at the launch today, Donnelly said that the party would abolish water charges if in government and would seek to guarantee the public ownership of the country’s water system.

He said that Irish Water had been set up with the intention of privatising the provision of water and claimed:

The money collected from water charges if there was 100 per cent payment… would fund the cost of collecting the charges and nothing else. That is absolutely barking mad.

Donnelly said he “probably” would pay his water charges but wasn’t sure whether he had yet as he is moving house. Shortall and Murphy both said they haven’t paid.

The party is proposing that €1.5 billion extra spending available to the government at the next budget should be split 2:1 in favour of spending increases relative to tax breaks as opposed to the 50:50 split being favoured by the coalition.

90386969 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

Political reform

On political reform the party wants a secret ballot to elect the Dáil Ceann Comhairle and to reduce the power of the party whip.

Shortall explained the Social Democrats would favour a Westminster-style three line whip system where some votes are not as binding on members as others.

On abortion, the party wants to repeal the 8th Amendment with Shortall saying it should be replaced with legislation.

Shortall also said the party would be pursuing the “Nordic model of social democracy” with one of its key aims to provide “affordable, quality childcare” including up to 12 months parental leave.

Murphy said the party wants to abolish the Official Secrets Act and replace it with legislation that is underpinned by “openness being the key to good governance”.

The party also wants to establish an Electoral Commission with a “very wide remit”, Murphy said.

A new website,, carries details about the new party and pages that include information on its ideas, how to get involved and how to donate to the new party.

The three founding members said today that the genesis of the Social Democrats was in discussions that began in January over coffee in Shortall’s kitchen.

“We eventually decided we had to sit down and talk about this,” Murphy said today.

The party does not have a target in terms of funding and says its operation so far has been backed by their own money.

Previously: Could ‘Social Democrats’ be the name of this new party… and will this senator be involved?


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