John Downing: Party will now struggle to be heard on the left
Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30
Irish politics is hard on all small parties, and our history is littered with tales of their rise and fall.
Barely 13 months after they were launched in July 2015, the fledgling Social Democrats are down to two TDs. High-profile Wicklow deputy Stephen Donnelly has left, saying "some partnerships simply don't work".
Once they got over the polite formalities, the remaining Soc Dems echoed Mr Donnelly's view - but with a slightly different emphasis.
A statement from the party stressed that the sheer slog of party-building would continue.
"The levels of dedication required for such a major undertaking can be overwhelming for some," the statement noted.
Speaking on RTÉ's 'Drivetime', Mr Donnelly made it clear that he was having none of this kind of suggestion.
"Nobody who starts a new political party is workshy, Nobody has accused me of being workshy. We have all worked very hard on this," he said.
Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, who remains on with former Labour junior health minister Róisín Shortall, said the "non-glamourous work" of recruiting members and framing a constitution would continue.
Ms Murphy said she and Ms Shortall had party membership experience and understood that it was a slow and difficult process. But the party now had staff and its first national conference will be held in November.
Social Democrat officials correctly argued that a political party, if it is to be any good, must be bigger than any one individual.
Yet the loss of one third of their complement of TDs is a blow for the fledgling party which is grappling with all the other obstacles that new political organisations have to face.
The party is still struggling to find a voice in a noisy and crowded political space to the left of centre. And all of this against a backdrop of public disenchantment with politics. They will need all the luck they can get to make their voices heard.
Meanwhile, there will be speculation about Stephen Donnelly's next move. Soon after his first election in 2011 he said he had once identified with the Green Party. More recently, he had been linked to Fianna Fáil - but denied that speculation.