Holly Cairns to be officially appointed as new Social Democrats leader

Cairns will today attempt to reach out to disengaged voters, and will take her first Leaders’ Questions slot in the Dáil

Cork South West TD Holly Cairns will officially become the new leader of the Social Democrats today (Wednesday), and will start her first day by attempting to reach out to disengaged voters.

The official deadline for nominations to the role of Social Democrats leader will pass at noon today. As the only candidate she will officially become leader after that deadline passes, having receiving the backing of party colleagues in recent days.

Ms Cairns will then take her first Leaders’ Questions slot at 12pm, before delivering a speech in Dublin to party members. She will then outline in a press conference what her priorities will be as leader.

It is understood that in her maiden speech to party members she will say the Social Democrats “are a party for a new era – not defined by old loyalties, old politics, old policies, cosy business connections or jobs for the boys”.


Ms Cairns will outline what she hopes to achieve in the role and will also detail her own backstory, including how she now finds herself as the youngest party leader in the Dáil. A source also said she plans to reach out to voters who feel disengaged from the political system, and that one of her biggest tasks will be to reach out to those people.

First elected to the Dáil in 2020, and the only woman TD to be returned from any constituency in Cork in the last general election, Ms Cairns was one of the most high-profile newcomers to enter Leinster House that year and one of the few to command a national profile.

A trained horticulturalist, along with her mother Madeline McKeever, she ran a 30-acre mixed farm comprising a small number of cattle, seed production and forestry on the Turk Head peninsula near Baltimore and Schull in west Cork.

Last week Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall announced that they were stepping down as co-leaders of the Social Democrats. Ms Shortall said she and Ms Murphy had decided that “the time is right now to hand over the leadership reins of the party to the next generation of Social Democrats”.

The pair said they were taking the decision to step down to allow a successor time to prepare for upcoming elections, and rejected any suggestion they had been asked to make way for a new leader.

Ms Shortall said neither of them was leaving politics but they will be “fully supporting and assisting” the new leader. Both confirmed their intention to contest the next general election.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times