Cork TD, Holly Cairns, was elected as leader of the Social Democrats, unopposed, on March 1, becoming the youngest leader of a political party in Ireland. She succeeds Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, the previous joint party leaders, who announced their departure back in February.
The 33-year-old was elected to Dáil Eireann in February 2020 for South-West Cork.
Cairns attended UCC and graduated with a first-class honour in Master of Science in Organic Horticulture. Cairns is also the party spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and Disability. She credits her background as a farmer and an environmentalist as her inspiration for entering politics.
During Cairns’ first Leaders’ Questions as the Leader of the Social Democrats she stated: “Taoiseach, I’m a member of the first ever generation who will be worse off than our parents. This didn’t happen by accident.”
She continued: “Political choices made by successive governments have resulted in the aspirations and dreams of an entire generation being either diminished or destroyed. Nowhere is the political betrayal of young people more evident than in the housing disaster.
“Skyrocketing rents and exorbitant house prices have resulted in the collapse of home ownership rates. We are now at the bottom third of EU countries when it comes to home ownership.
“You told a recent meeting of your parliamentary party you were alarmed to see that figure. But Taoiseach were you surprised?”
According to the ‘Ireland Thinks’ poll for the Sunday Independent, the Social Democrats have seen a doubling of support, from 4% to 9% following Holly Cairns becoming new leader of the party. However, the poll acknowledges a margin of error of 2.9%.
Whether they will be able to maintain and grow this public support before the next election date, which likely won’t occur until late 2024, is anyone guess.