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Soc Dems National Conference – an excited, nervous start

Holly Cairns is focused in this year of elections on her party gaining as many seats as possible.

The Social Democrats currently has six TDs after doubling its cohort in the last general election, while it has 22 sitting county councillors.

The party hopes to field up to 100 candidates in the local elections and although not yet chosen, it will put forward candidates in all three constituencies for the forthcoming European parliament elections.

This is Holly Cairns’ first conference as party leader, and also her first as a TD after she won her Cork South West seat in 2020.

At the start of proceedings in the O’Reilly Hall in UCD she told reporters she was excited and nervous, and she said the party’s focus is to offer people the option of voting for social democracy.

“We are asking people to give us a chance, we promise to work hard, we will do our best to try and keep people’s trust and we really want to be a part of a progressive change in Ireland,” she said.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns alongside Cian O’Callaghan (L) and Gary Gannon (R)

At 34, Holly Cairns is the youngest leader of a political party, but she said the Social Democrats are focusing on issues for everyone, not just for young people.

“The issues that face my generation are intergenerational, we talk about half a million adults living in their childhood bedrooms, I don’t think parents, the houseowner, really want that situation,” she said.

The Social Democrats are prolific on social media sites, using TikTok and Instagram to get their messages across.

Ms Cairns said that it is important to reach voters wherever they are: “Elections are fought on the doors, now they are also fought on the phones and it is really important to try and reach people where they are”.

She went on to describe how she felt herself before becoming a TD. “Not that long ago, I felt disconnected with Irish politics and I hope we can reach those people and ask them to give us a chance”.

The guest speaker at the party conference is the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland.

Holly Cairns said Irish people have sent a clear message that they want the war in Gaza to end and that the Social Democrats is using its party conference to reinforce that message.

She also said there should be complete transparency in terms of the RTÉ severance packages, and that the public need to trust the public broadcaster again.

“I don’t think that can be achieved without complete accountability and transparency,” she added.

Holly Cairns’ leaders’ speech will be aired tomorrow evening on RTÉ One at 6.30pm.

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