Cork South West TD Holly Cairns.

Next election ‘crucial’ for Social Democrats

It won't be easy for new Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns to hold her seat in the next general election but it is imperative that she do so.

That’s according to Dr Aodh Quinlivan, Director of the Centre for Local and Regional Governance at UCC, who said the Cork South West TD’s appointment as leader will give her party fresh impetus ahead of the next general election, which he says will be “crucial” for the Social Democrats.

Dr Quinlivan also said that having one leader rather than co-leaders would help to “provide clarity” for the party.

“Congratulations to Holly Cairns, I am sure she will do an excellent job. Of course, as a first-time TD, Holly is inexperienced but perhaps this might be an asset to embrace,” Dr Quinlivan told the Cork Independent.

“She has ridden her luck to some extent at elections and, of course, it is imperative that as a party leader she holds her seat. It won’t be an easy task but she already enjoys a high profile and her new role as party leader can only be beneficial in this regard,” he added.

Having won the final seat in the Bantry local election by a single vote in 2019, Deputy Cairns was elected to Dáil Eireann in February 2020. The other 2 seats went to Fianna Fail's Christopher O'Sullivan and Independent Michael Collins, leaving the Cork South West constituency without a Fine Gael TD for the first time since 1957.

Dr Quinlivan continued: “Holly famously won her Cork County Council seat in 2019 by one vote and, at the 2020 General Election, achieved 10.6% of first preference votes and was in fifth place in a 3 seat constituency.

“She was still over 2,000 votes behind entering the eighth and last count but came through with a big transfer bounce.

“With 6 TDs, on foot of a 2.9% first preference vote at the 2020 General Election, Holly will be hoping to push the party forwards. With this in mind, I am sure she will be targeting the local elections next year.”

The West Cork woman officially took up her new role as the latest leader of the Social Democrat party yesterday, Wednesday in Dublin.

It was announceed last week that co-leaders and party founders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall would be stepping down.

Deputy Cairns had the full backing of her party, with all other Social Democrat TDs ruling themselves out of running for party leadership.

Taking to Twitter to confirm the news, Deputy Cairns said it was a “big decision” and that she is under “no illusions about the challenges ahead”.

“I am hugely ambitious for the future of the @SocDems and I am determined to build on the excellent foundations laid by the incredible Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall. I look forward to setting out my vision for the party on Wednesday.”

Ms Cairns is also her party’s spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural Development; Social Justice; and Disability. She is also a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration.