Wednesday 18 September 2019

Stephen Donnelly quits Social Democrats - but has yet to decide to whether to go solo or join a party

Social Democrat TD Stephen Donnelly Photo: Fergal Phillips
Social Democrat TD Stephen Donnelly Photo: Fergal Phillips

Kevin Doyle and Denise Calnan

Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly has quit the Social Democrats, saying "some partnerships simply don't work".

The second-term TD was co-leader of the fledgling party along with Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall.

He has confirmed he has quit the party - but said he will now take some time to consider going forward as an Independent or joining another party.

His departure will come as a major blow the party which performed well in the General Election but failed to add to their three Dáil members.

Mr Donnelly said that some partnerships “simply don’t work no matter how hard all of the parties” try to make it success.

He said that if the Social Democrats are “to achieve its potential as a party of significant influence and scale, despite the many obstacles new parties face, one critical component is that the leadership team must function very well together as a team”.

“I have concluded that our partnership did not have that. I further believe that this would be the case whether the leadership had continued to be shared or was vested in one person, which was not something I or anyone else had sought.”

Despite this Mr Donnelly said he was leaving the party “with great sadness, having vested so much together with my parliamentary colleagues, Catherine and Roisin, a small core team and many volunteers across the country, into the establishment of the Social Democrats over the last 20 months”.

He said he entered politics in 2011 because he saw “an urgent need for new thinking and approaches to steering Ireland through turbulent times and into a new era of opportunity and equality”.

He now intends to consult with his supports in Wicklow before deciding his next move.

“I will continue to work hard on the issues I am championing, including stopping tax avoidance by vulture funds, improving public services, resolving the mortgage crisis; responsible fiscal management, promoting high quality job creation and reducing the costs of living and doing business,” his statement concluded.

Speaking this evening on RTE Radio One's Drivetime, Mr Donnelly said it was a "sad" decision to make. He also said he was not sure what step he would take next - and he was keeping both working as an Independent or joining another party as options.

"Today's decision is a sad one for me personally, I've thought about it long and hard.

"I've been working on this for nearly two years, it's been a privilege to work alongside Catherine and Roisin.

"First and foremost for me, this is a sad day, we have all invested a lot in the party.

"To your question, I think it's an unfortunate line they're taking.

"Nobody who starts a new political party is work-shy.

"Nobody has accused me of being work shy.

"We have all worked very hard on this.

"I conclude sadly that, after two years, it wasn't working well enough and it just wasn't working well enough for me.

"Anyone listening will understand, from being on a sports team or business, you come together with a good group of people and then you realise it's not the right thing for me to be doing."

The Social Democrats party released a statement which read: “We are disappointed that he has decided to walk away from the project, we undertook, to establish and build the Party."

“The Executive Committee of the Party has reaffirmed its commitment to the vision of a strong economy, fair society and honest politics.

“We are fully committed to the project and will endeavour to develop the Party into an exciting force for change in Irish Politics.”

The Social Democrats said the defence of social democratic values is “not dependent on one personality or politician”.

“Since the Social Democrats were first founded, in July 2015, we have worked to build the party brick-by-brick.

“This is a long term project which requires dedication, hard work, long hours and a major commitment from all involved including our elected representatives.”

The party statement added: “ The levels of dedication required for such a major undertaking can be overwhelming for some.

“However our elected Councillors, our staff team and our volunteers are passionate about our project and we will now get on with the job of building our party.”

It concluded: “We wish Stephen the best in his future endeavours and look forward, with excitement, to the future development of the Social Democrats.”

Speaking later, Mr Donnelly's colleague Catherine Murphy said he had been "disengaged" recently.

"It's very disappointing," TD Murphy said, confirming the party leaders spoke yesterday.

"We all entered this in good faith. We're very sorry it hasn't worked out.

"No party will be down to one individual. There are a lot of capable people determined to make this work, we've had supporters on to us all day."

Ms Murphy also said the two deputies remaining will continue to work as co-leaders.

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