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Social Democrats hold their first annual conference - and vow to remove 'the baptism barrier'

The party has unveiled its constitution for the first time, and appointed its national executive.

19/11/2016.Pictured Social Democrats TDs Catherin Catherine Murphy (l) and Roisín Shortall Source: Leah Farrell

THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS have held their first national conference at the Convention Centre in Dublin.

The event saw the party, which has been in existence since July 2015, establish its constitution and make certain key appointments.

About 400 people were in attendance at the event.

The party has two TDs, Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall. Stephen Donnelly stood down from the party in September. It ran 14 candidates in the last February’s election, but, despite a number of close-run races, failed to return more than the three TDs than it entered the election with.

Last night’s leaders’ speech was shared by party TDs Shortall and Murphy.

Shortall called for a “revolution of hope… of ambition” within Irish society. She said that last year’s marriage referendum had “proved that Irish people are fair”.

“The challenge now is to bring that same thirst for an equal Ireland; that same passion for social justice to all facets of public life in Ireland,” she said.

And we have to start by addressing poverty.

Murphy meanwhile asked the delegates present “to imagine something with me”.

“Let’s imagine how different Ireland could be 10 years from now,” she said.

19/11/2016.Pictured are people at the Social Dem Delegates in attendance at the conference Source: Leah Farrell

An Ireland without the indignity of homelessness. An Ireland where homes are affordable, where tenure is secure and communities where people are proud to live.
Tonight, we are setting out our vision. We are setting out on a road to translate that vision into plans people can believe in, and people will join with, to help make happen.

Constitution and policy

The party took the opportunity last night to publicly unveil its constitution and to set out certain policy objectives.

Specific policy priorities announced include:

  • The removal of “the baptism barrier” so that people “can attend their local schools, regardless of religious beliefs”
  • Repeal of the Official Secrets Act
  • Ending zero-hour contracts and implementing a living wage
  • Linking of rents to the Consumer Price Index
  • Establishing an anti-corruption agency
  • Ending child poverty by 2021

Meanwhile, a number of appointments were made to the party’s national executive, with “women claiming the top spots” as announced in its own press material.

Businesswoman and 2016 election candidate Glenna Lynch has been elected chair of the executive, with Limerick branch chairperson Sarah Jane Hennelly elected vice chair.

“I am delighted to become chair of the first national executive of the Social Democrats,” Lynch said in the aftermath of her election.

I became involved in politics because I simply don’t accept that we in Ireland are incapable of managing a society that allows every person on this island to meet their full potential.  We are more than capable.
Ireland needs a contemporary party, rooted in today’s realities, driven by a strategic evidence-based approach.  That’s the party we are starting to build.

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