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7 things we learned from the Soc Dems conference

The Social Democrats held its national conference at University College Dublin today.

Here are seven things we learned:

Red lines

The party has drawn up some red lines ahead of any talks to form the next Government.

Chief among them is a ban on no fault evictions.

More spending to fully deliver universal healthcare is also a top priority.

The amount of funding available for social and affordable homes will have to increase too if the the Social Democrats are to be enticed into joining government.

The parliamentary party members seem keen, but some delegates struck a more cautious note.

Among them Criostoir Hasty who warned against becoming the small party in a coalition that cannot deliver its policies and gets clobbered by the senior party.

The Big Idea

The party believes it could deliver 50,000 homes every year. This would include 10,000 affordable homes and 12,000 social homes.

There would also be a three year rent freeze and a ban on the bulk buying of properties by big investors.

Plus a vacant homes tax with “real teeth” would be introduced.

The shortage of housing was referenced by dozens of delegates and candidates.

Karen Hinkson-Deeney, who is running in the Pembroke ward in Dublin, said it has resulted in many of her friends having to emigrate.

On climate action the party wants to allocate €6 billion to a “transformation fund” which could make the country a world leader in tackling the climate crisis.

It would be used to achieve warmer homes, pristine waters as well as rejuvenating biodiversity.

Social Democrats Leader Holly Cairns

Double the number of councillors

The party currently has 22 local authority seats but there is an expectation that it can double that number.

Signs that the party is expanding its reach is evidenced in the fact that it is running candidates in areas when it has not contested elections before.

One such territory is Kerry where it hopes to return two councillors in June.

Kilkenny too has been identified as a potential growth area.

Further down the line there are possible new Dáil seats coming into view.

These include Offaly where Clare Claffey is seen as a contender in the three seat constituency.

Novelty merchandising

The Social Democrats conference threw up a piece of political merchandise with a particularly rare combination of words.

It was a much sought after €8 mug emblazoned with the message: Sex, Drugs and Public Services.

Sales seemed brisk, particularly among the large number of younger delegates in attendance.

It’s certainly a piece that could make its way into Ireland’s top collection of political ephemera curated by the tireless Alan Kinsella.

It’s a year of possibility

The Social Democrats believe seismic change in Irish politics is within touching distance.

Party Leader Holly Cairns says this is the first time that neither Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael might lead the next Government.

She asked everyone watching the party conference to give the Social Democrats a chance, promising honesty but not the sun, moon and stars.

Ireland is not full

The conference heard that Ireland is not full, but it is not working properly.

Ms Cairns spoke of the need to ignore the small number of loud voices urging people to “turn our backs on people fleeing war, famine and persecution”.

Party Chair Síle Ní Dhubhghail identified the issue as a key one for the party and highlighted the need to be the right side of the argument.

There was an emphasis too on the fact that so many Irish people, including the party leader herself, have had to emigrate in the past.

All of which underscores the importance of a warm welcome when arriving in a new country.

Gaza

The Social Democrats continue to push Government to take a stronger stance over what is unfolding in Gaza.

There was strident criticism at the conference over its failure to make a referral to the International Criminal Court and to enact the Occupied Territories Bill.

The most effusive applause received by the party leader came when she stridently declared: “We must stand with the Palestinian people today, tomorrow and always. Because in the face of genocide, inaction becomes complicity.”


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