Independents launch Social Democrats political party

Group pledges to abolish water charges and repeal the eighth amendment

A new party called the Social Democrats has been launched by three prominent Independent TDs: Catherine Murphy from Kildare North, Wicklow’s Stephen Donnelly and Róisín Shortall who represents Dublin North West. Mary Minihan reports.


The three prominent Independent TDs who launched the Social Democrats party said they would insist on the abolition of water charges if negotiating to take part in a new government.

Catherine Murphy from Kildare North, Wicklow’s Stephen Donnelly and Róisín Shortall, who represents Dublin North West, will share the leadership of the new party until after the general election.

“If we are in a position to be negotiating a programme for government, our position is that water charges would immediately be abolished. Our position is that the public ownership of the utility would be absolutely guaranteed,” Mr Donnelly said at the launch of the party.

“Irish Water is set up for privatisation. We would immediately remove that as an option. We would immediately pause the water metering implementation.”

Mr Donnelly said his household had not paid water charges “to the best of my knowledge”.

He said his family, part of “the negative equity generation”, had moved house three times in seven months. However, he said he “probably would” pay water charges, while Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall confirmed they had not paid.

Making their announcement at the Civic Offices in Wood Quay in Dublin, the trio said they wanted to see a 2:1 investment in public services relative to tax cuts in the upcoming budget.

They were critical of the Government’s proposed 50-50 split between tax cuts and spending increases.

They also said they were committed to extending paid parental leave to move towards a system where children could be cared for at home for at least the first 12 months of their lives.

Ms Murphy said the party hoped to attract “people of conviction” to contest the election under its banner. “Our intention is to deliver a social democratic vision that is very much in the Nordic tradition,” she said.

Asked about the party’s stance on abortion, Ms Murphy said they all agreed the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution had to be repealed and replaced by legislation.

There were a variety of views in society that needed to be adequately consulted so the vast majority of people could subscribe to the legislation, she added.

Ms Shortall said the “policy-based” party hoped to contest the election in every constituency.

She said the party would make a decision about a leader after the election, when she hoped its Dáil representation would be much larger.

She said the party had done a lot of work on its proposals to enhance childcare. Quality of and access to pre-school services should be improved, she said.

The party is also proposing the establishment of “child clinics” in all communities, “so that we can practice that principle of prevention and early intervention when it comes to wellbeing, particularly in relation to children”.

Ms Shortall said nobody else had been approached to run for the party, but that would happen. She also hoped people would approach the party in the coming weeks and months.

Independent Senator Katherine Zappone, who was previously in talks with the TDs, announced last month she would contest the Dáil election as an Independent candidate in Dublin South West.

A document distributed by the party at the launch event said its key policy areas were “strong economy, open government and social vision”.

The party’s values were listed as: “progress; equality; democracy and sustainability”.

Mr Donnelly said the traditional Irish approach to planning, investment and public services was short-term. “The Irish people deserve more than this and are demanding more than this.”

There was a growing demand for better education, healthcare, jobs and society, he said.

“New vision, fresh ideas, better approaches, these are what need to be put in place and ultimately that is what today and the Social Democrats are about.”

Ms Murphy said the Social Democrats wanted to end the practice of judges being appointed by politicians.

She said they wanted to see the Official Secrets Act replaced because they believed that openness was the key to good governance.

“We’re not interested in getting into auction politics. We believe in option politics,” she said.

She said the “standard merry-go-round of scandal, inquiry and report, but no real lessons learned” had to stop. It was “corrosive and offensive” to the values of Irish people.