New Social Democrats party not trying to replicate Labour

The newly launched Social Democrats have pledged to introduce 12 months paid parental leave, improve public services, and install wide-ranging political reform if it were to enter government.

The new party refused to say if these promises would be fulfilled by increasing taxes.

Founders Roisín Shortall, Catherine Murphy, and Stephen Donnelly said €2 should be spent on improving public services for every €1 spent on tax cuts in the upcoming budget.

The TDs also rejected suggestions the new group was trying to replace or replicate the Labour Party.

Launching their group at a packed event in Dublin city centre, the founders said the Social Democrats have “big plans” and would contest as many constituencies as possible at the next general election.

Mr Donnelly said there was a need for a new politics to address what he called the unequal economic recovery, the outdated political system, and the lack of ambition in enterprise and business in Ireland.

The group would produce better jobs, better education, and a better society overall if put in power, he said.

The party has said it will be a few months before its policies are fully developed.

In the meantime, it is looking for volunteers to fundraise, knock on doors, or even run for election, he said.

The party also intends to relax the whip on its TDs or senators and thereby give them more freedom on what to back or oppose during voting in the Dáil and Seanad. Strict controls would be applied for votes on budgets and motions of confidence.

Asked about a number of key issues that are expected to be debated in the lead-up the election, the founders said they supported repealing the eight amendment of the Constitution and thereby liberalising the abortion laws.

The party also said that it would, if put in power, order a full review of Irish Water and ensure it was put into public ownership alongside the scrapping of water charges.

Individually, Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy said they had not paid their water bills while Mr Donnelly remained confused about whether his household had; he eventually said the bill had been paid.

The Social Democrats would support a 2:1 ratio spend on public services against money for tax cuts in the upcoming budget.

The trio said no leader for the party would be decided before the general election and that they were agreeing issues by consensus at the moment.

Ms Shortall said the Social Democrats would contest as many constituencies as possible at the election but the exact details had yet to be decided.

Independent senator Katherine Zappone had considered joining, while independent TD Tommy Broughan — formerly of Labour — said he had kept in contact with Ms Shortall in recent months but told the Irish Examiner he would not be joining the new party.

“I wish them well... but I am ploughing ahead as an independent,” he said.


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