Group of Social Democrats members call for leadership election

Letter from group, including two councillors, calls for party to ‘move on to next stage’

A group of party activists in the Social Democrats, including two councillors, has called for a leadership election to be held.

In a letter to the party’s national executive, the group called for a leadership contest to take place, to allow the party “move to the next stage”.

The party currently has two co-leaders, Róisín Shortall TD and Catherine Murphy TD, who have been at the helm of the party since it was formed six years ago.

The letter, seen by The Irish Times, states the group wants the party to continue its growth seen in recent elections.


“We believe the membership of the Social Democrats represent a new wave in Irish politics. To make that a reality we need to be bold and we need to be strong with a united voice,” it states.

“Much has changed in the party in these six short years and we would like the opportunity to take stock of where we are and where we’re going,” it states.

The group requested that the party’s national executive meet to hold a vote to call a leadership election. A motion to propose a leadership contest requires a two-thirds majority of the executive under the party’s constitution.

‘Collective voice’

“We believe this move will solidify the vision of the Social Democrats as we prepare for the next elections and we will accept the collective voice of the members,” the letter states.

Cllr Cat O'Driscoll, who sits on Dublin City Council, and Cllr Chris Pender, who is a member of Kildare County Council, are among the 16 members who signed the letter.

A number of the other signatories include party activists who have been heavily involved since its formation in 2015. Peter Tanham, one of the members who signed the letter, previously sat on the party's national executive.

The letter pays tribute to the current leadership duo, who it states “have done exceptional work”, but adds “it is now time to move to the next stage”.

“A leadership contest would allow members a direct say in the future direction of the party. We believe that the promise of a member-led party is what has attracted so much talent to the organisation and it is now time to review our structures and leadership,” the letter states.

However, in a joint statement, the Social Democrats parliamentary party said it was “united behind co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall”.

“Under their leadership, the party tripled its number of TDs in the 2020 general election and we are all focused on continuing our important work holding the Government to account, particularly in the areas of housing, health and climate action,” the statement said.

“We are hugely ambitious for the party - and building a strong social democratic alternative in Ireland,” the joint statement said.

Following the 2020 general election the party increased its number of Dáil seats from two to six.

Separately, Brian Sheehan, general secretary of the party, is to step down from the role in the coming weeks.

Mr Sheehan, one of the former directors of the Yes Equality campaign, told The Irish Times his move from the general secretary position had been signalled for “quite some time”.

The decision is not connected with the recent call for a leadership election.

Mr Sheehan said he had indicated he would be stepping down from the role after the Oireachtas summer recess, and is to leave the position in early September.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times