He got the public googling after his performance during the seven-person TV debate of the general election campaign, putting the Social Democrats firmly on the political stage.
Stephen Donnelly — now formerly a joint-leader of the Social Democrats — came out as a winner of the second televised political debate of the election campaign and was the most searched leader on Google that night.
But despite his party gaining three seats in the current Dáil and achieving 3% of first preference votes, since then many have said Mr Donnelly has avoided the limelight with his two colleagues constantly walking the plinth, acting as the public faces of the fledgling party.
In fact, yesterday after his announcement to leave the party — just 14 months after he helped found it — many in the party said they were “not at all surprised” with Catherine Murphy accusing him of being “disengaged for some time”.
When Mr Donnelly, Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall announced in July of last year that they were uniting to start a new political venture many questioned their compatibility.
While all three were vocal and prominent politicians in their own right, doubts were raised as to how a Harvard Kennedy School graduate and former management consultant would jointly lead a party with a one-time Workers’ Party activist and long-time Labour Party member.
Just last week, after Ms Murphy issued a strong statement condemning any appeal of the Apple tax ruling, Mr Donnelly went on the airwaves to give a more subdued reaction in calling for more information.
But cracks have been appearing in the party for some time and the three-pronged leadership appeared to splinter when they briefly went into government formation negotiations before quickly retreating from all talks.
After announcing the establishment of the Social Democrats, Mr Donnelly wrote on his website that serving the people of Wicklow and East Carlow as an independent TD had been “the very highest honour” but it was “an inescapable political fact there is a limit on what can be achieved, for the county, and for the country, as an Independent”.
But party politics appears not to have worked either, or perhaps it was just the Social Democrat party that wasn’t right for Mr Donnelly.
It will be interesting to see his next political steps.
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